Chef of the Hour

Odette’s chef turns to art when de­sign­ing his restau­rant space and dishes


A cel­e­brated French chef turns to his grand­mother for in­spi­ra­tion

“I try to stay grounded to the val­ues I learned as a young chef, which is to re­spect the taste, ter­roir, and in­tegrity of in­gre­di­ents.”

Be­fore he rose to be­come one of Sin­ga­pore’s most sought- af­ter tal­ents, be­fore he opened two- Miche­lin Star restau­rant Odette, Julien Royer was born in cen­tral France to a fam­ily of farmers who be­lieved in the pu­rity of pro­duce and in­gre­di­ents. Strongly in­flu­enced by his grand­mother, the young chef even­tu­ally learned how to carry his fam­ily’s culi­nary ideals, in­clud­ing the hos­pi­tal­ity and care so deeply in­fused into his home. “Fam­ily was ev­ery­thing to my grand­mother, and my fond­est mem­o­ries of her were cen­tered around home and fam­ily. She was a very lov­ing per­son and al­ways took care of every­body. The magic of hos­pi­tal­ity was built into her DNA,” he says. “My grand­mother taught me to re­spect sea­son­al­ity and prod­ucts— that is the key that goes be­yond any kind of food phi­los­o­phy. It seems sim­ple but peo­ple tend to for­get that there’s a sea­son for ev­ery­thing. You have to use a prod­uct when it’s at its peak.”

Th­ese teach­ings soon bore fruit in the form of Odette, which is named af­ter his grand­mother. Aside from cher­ish­ing the qual­ity of in­gre­di­ents and the food he makes, Royer wanted to cre­ate an in­her­ent fam­ily cul­ture in the restau­rant where one learns hu­mil­ity and re­spect for the peo­ple they work with. Af­ter mov­ing to Sin­ga­pore and end­ing a brief fouryear stint at JAAN as chef de cui­sine, he opened his fine din­ing, mod­ern French cui­sine restau­rant in late 2015 to much fanfare. The hype sur­round­ing Odette bled into 2016, with the restau­rant al­ready fully booked un­til late De­cem­ber.

It isn’t dif­fi­cult to see Odette’s buzz in Sin­ga­pore; af­ter all, Royer had al­ready amassed a good rep­u­ta­tion and was awarded Chef of the Year in 2012 and 2014 by the World Gourmet Sum­mit. “I try to stay grounded to the val­ues I learned as a young chef, which is to re­spect the taste, ter­roir, and in­tegrity of in­gre­di­ents,” he says. “At Odette, ev­ery in­gre­di­ent has its place and pur­pose, and is treated with the ut­most care to high­light its purest fla­vors.” One of the restau­rant’s sig­na­ture dishes dur­ing its open­ing was his rein­ven­tion of his grand­mother’s dish, cele­riac risotto— a sim­ple but fla­vor­ful of­fer­ing height­ened by sun­flower, black truf­fle, and Comté cheese.

If there is any­thing Royer is good at other than food, it is his at­ten­tion to de­tail. Although he has ex­pressed a dis­dain for trends, Royer en­joys art and de­sign, and it shows in his de­ci­sion to open Odette in Sin­ga­pore’s Na­tional Gallery as well as work closely with its cre­ative di­rec­tor and artist Dawn Ng. Promi­nently fea­tured in Odette’s aes­thet­ics is Ng’s The­ory of Ev­ery­thing, a col­lec­tion of ab­stract col­lages crafted from a se­ries of de­con­structed food pho­tog­ra­phy in its purest form, in­ten­tion­ally mir­ror­ing Royer’s con­scious recog­ni­tion of the in­tegrity of fla­vors and com­po­nents. In ad­di­tion, Odette also uses cut­lery from Ate­lier Perce­val, which fo­cuses on the use of the diner rather than plain aes­thetic.

When asked about which in­gre­di­ent he is cur­rently toy­ing with, Royer con­fesses to play­ing with yuzu. “It has such a unique and com­plex fla­vor, which is all at once bit­ter, acidic, and flo­ral with a hint of tart­ness,” he says. “I love fin­ish­ing off a piece of foie gras or steamed fish with a dust­ing of zest to add a great zing and fresh­ness to the dish.”

A year af­ter its open­ing, the restau­rant re­mains strong, with ta­bles con­tin­u­ing to be sought af­ter. Ul­ti­mately, what makes Odette de­serv­ing of the in­dus­try hype is Royer’s phi­los­o­phy of putting guests at the heart of the over­all din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, some­thing he has not for­got­ten since his early days. “We are a young restau­rant that is still grow­ing and evolv­ing. We are still work­ing to es­tab­lish our­selves. Our jour­ney has only just be­gun.”

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