MADE IN FRANCE
FREDERIC COLIN HAS ALREADY TAKEN HIS FRENCH BISTRO FARE TO SINGAPORE; NOW SYDNEY IS GETTING A TASTE.
For a passionate lover of French cuisine, Frédéric Colin is a long way from Paris. In fact the chef has been far from his home town for a long time. But that is the whole point: Colin has made his name exporting the very best of the Paris bistro to different parts of the world and now Australia.
He and his business partner, sommelier and general manager Lionel Richard, have opened Bistrot Gavroche in the redevelopment of Kensington Street in the former Carlton and United Brewery site in Chippendale, on the south edge of Sydney’s CBD. Set in an 1880s-built rum warehouse, the restaurant is based on cuisine that Colin’s grandfather Henri used to cook in Les Halles.
It is the third restaurant for Colin, who has similar eateries, Brasserie Gavroche and Café Gavroche, in Singapore. And it was Singapore-based Stanley Quek, the property developer behind the Kensington Street project, who convinced Colin to come to Sydney and open a bistro.
“About a year ago, he talked to me about this project, and here I am,” Colin tells WISH just after the restaurant’s opening in June. The chef, who trained at Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris, was impressed with what Quek had done in Singapore, renewing neglected parts of the city, and his interest was piqued when he saw the redevelopment of Chippendale.
Colin also thought Sydney desperately needed a classic French bistro. “French cuisine is not that trendy right now, it is not what people want. People always think of the cliché, of butter, of cream, that is very expensive,” he says. “But what is happening now in most of the trends in French food worldwide is to go back to the basics. And that is what I do – it is about timeless cuisine.”
Colin grew up spending weekends and holidays in his father’s or his grandfather’s restaurant. “I had no choice really,” he says of his profession. “When I was seven, my grandparents asked me what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to be a chef. I try to remember why but it was probably just being surrounded by it and I loved my grandfather so much.”
A stint in military service (he was the personal chef to the Military Governor of Paris) followed culinary school. He was offered a job in the Caribbean after finishing in the military and there began his overseas adventures. “I went from St Barts to Miami to Bora Bora and then to Singapore,” he says of his career. He was the executive chef at the luxury St Regis Resort in Bora Bora (where he saw his fair share of celebrities and once had to charter a private jet to nearby Tahiti to pick up a pineapple for one famous guest).
After a few years at St Regis in Singapore, Colin decided to open his own French brasserie inspired by his grandfather’s Paris restaurant. It was such a hit that just nine months later he opened a more casual café across the road.
So does Colin want to open another Bistrot Gavroche in Australia? “I would love to,” he says. “If I had the opportunity, the next one would be Melbourne. But this is very new and business is not easy anywhere in the world so I want to focus on this one first and the customers here.”
Chef Frederic Colin, left, and sommelier and general manager Lionel Richard