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Royer: 'On the Top of The World, Thanks to My Grandma's Tart'

Royer: 'On the Top of The World, Thanks to My Grandma's Tart'

Chef Julien Royer of Odette is crowned top of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list. 'I'm opening a new restaurant in Hong Kong,' he reveals.

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It was an emotional night for Julien Royer at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 in Macao. The French chef‘s Singapore restaurant, Odette, was crowned Best Restaurant in Asia, six years after the chef won the One to Watch Award at the inaugural ceremony in Singapore, fulfilling his promise in great style. He dedicated the win to his grandmother, Odette, who inspired his success. “She was amazing at making tart: prune tart, apple tart, apricot tart, raspberry tart. She made the best tart. She is the one who fed us so well as kids, and she is the one who showed me how much pleasure, emotion and love you can give to people through cuisine, food and hospitality,” he said. “This is my tribute to her, and this is what we’re trying to do on a daily basis.”

In Love with Singapore

Having left Jaan in 2015 to open what he called his "dream restaurant", Royer has embarked on a voyage of discovery. “It’s been an incredible journey since we started this project,” he said. “The idea of this restaurant was to provide great and fine cuisine, and a very genuine hospitality. I feel the cuisine we’re doing has the DNA of French cuisine, but it has really been impacted by the geographic location of Singapore - we use a lot of vegetables, citrus and spices from the region. I’m trying to explore the flavours of south-east Asia, and how to slowly infuse them in my cooking in the way I wanted, in subtle touches that enhances the flavour, without breaking the DNA of the cooking. It’s a very fragile balance, but it’s an ongoing exercise.”

Odette becomes the first restaurant in Singapore to be named Asia’s Best, and Royer was keen to extend his tribute to the small island nation off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, a place he has called home for over a decade. “I hope to bring some pride to Singapore,” he said. “It really has a special place in my heart. As a dining destination it’s fantastic. How this island has so much to offer when it comes to food, so much quality, so much diversity? And people are really cuckoo about food in Singapore, so I love that. It’s a little space with not much to do, so food is the number one activity for many Singaporeans.”

A Zero-waste activist

In keeping with the theme of sustainability, which has run through Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 and 50 BestTalks, Royer admitted his adopted home country has its problems. “It’s a very tricky subject. Being in Singapore, a place that officially imports 90 percent of the food that is consumed in the country, it’s important. But there is more and more thought of people to try and find a solution to reduce the impact on nature, to develop new farming methods that allow us to reduce this level of importation.”

His own contribution at Odette involves a no nonsense approach to environmental matters. “Believe me it’s hardcore,” he said. “We try to use every single part of every product. One of our ingredients is a pigeon. It does not come from Singapore, it’s from far away. But to reduce its impact, we try to use every part of the bird. We try to have zero waste, and this is just an example, but the same goes for fish, spices, citrus, vegetables.”

Royer’s zero-waste ethos might be hardcore, but the look and feel of Odette is soft and inviting. Housed in Singapore’s National Gallery, the dining room was created by local artist Dawn Ng, whose gentle hues and splashes of original art give the place a distinctive look and feel. “We wanted to break the usual code of fine dining, which is very masculine, with very dark colours,” said Royer. “We wanted the space to be warm and engaging, and to be feminine, because I think the food we do is kind of feminine, and I hope it’s something a little bit lighter than what we expect from a classic French restaurant.”

Next stop:  Hong Kong

Continuing the feminine theme, Royer’s next project will be a casual French eatery in Hong Kong called Louise. Whether it will reach the heights of the restaurant inspired by his grandmother’s cooking remains to be seen. But for the time being, Royer will allow himself a little celebration, for a moment at least. “We’re going to have some champagne, and tomorrow it’s back to Singapore, back to reality and back to business,” he said.

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