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.”