GUN­THER HUBRECH­SEN

Chef-owner, Gun­ther’s Modern French Cui­sine

Wine & Dine - - BEHIND THE SCENES: VISIONARIES -

A vet­eran in Sin­ga­pore’s restau­rant scene, Bel­gian chef Gunter Hubrech­sen ar­rived in Sin­ga­pore in 2002, af­ter work­ing for sev­eral years at three-Miche­lin-starred L’Ar­pège in Paris un­der chef Alain Pas­sard. First im­press­ing din­ers at Les Amis, he later started his own restau­rant in 2007. A deep love for in­gre­di­ents an­chors his ded­i­ca­tion to modern French cui­sine.

“It con­tin­ues to in­spire me be­cause it is a re­fined cui­sine fo­cus­ing on the main flavour of the prod­uct, which is my true in­spi­ra­tion,” he says. His restau­rant has al­ways been in the lime­light in ebbs and flows; this year’s been par­tic­u­larly buzzy, with the awards he has been gar­ner­ing such as our Sin­ga­pore’s Top

Restau­rants’ top award. On top of that, he has just given his restau­rant an in­te­rior makeover. But de­spite the evo­lu­tion Gun­ther’s has seen through the years, what stays the same is the ex­quis­ite cui­sine it stands for.

Is fine din­ing go­ing out of style in Sin­ga­pore?

Most of the time, peo­ple visit a fine din­ing restau­rant for a spe­cial oc­ca­sion and only one time, so it can be a bit re­dun­dant. Din­ers are also look­ing for places with more am­bi­ence and at­mos­phere. Even so, the de­mand will still ex­ist be­cause fine din­ing pro­vides a unique culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ence you can’t get at home or in a bistro.

What has kept you in Sin­ga­pore all these years? And how have you stayed re­silient through the in­dus­try’s ups and downs?

Love of course!!! My part­ner is Sin­ga­porean, and this is where I call home. And stay­ing re­silient has been noth­ing but hard work. Lastly I won’t be here with­out the fan­tas­tic sup­port of my loyal cus­tomers. Some of them have fol­lowed me since Les Amis.

From your ob­ser­va­tion, what’s the lo­cal diner look­ing for when they go out to dine?

The Sin­ga­pore diner is fre­quently look­ing for the lat­est open­ing and tends to for­get about all the pioneers who are still in. But this might be part of the game too.

How has the restau­rant scene in Sin­ga­pore evolved from the time you started?

When I started my own restau­rant 11 years ago, the open­ing of the casi­nos was a big thing and the restau­rants that opened there had a lot at­ten­tion. But af­ter a few years, a lot of them closed down and this is when we re­alise that Sin­ga­pore has a dif­fer­ent mar­ket. Guests are look­ing for spe­cial and per­son­alised treat­ment. You have to sat­isfy their re­quests.

How does Sin­ga­pore com­pare to other cities such as Bangkok, Hong Kong or Seoul as a gourmet haven?

Lots of restau­rants in those coun­tries can fill up their restau­rants with tourists, com­pared to Sin­ga­pore which re­ally needs a strong lo­cal fan base. We welcome fewer tourists than those cap­i­tals. Here, most of the tourists are in tran­sit or they stay for one or two nights. There­fore, Sin­ga­pore is a very dif­fer­ent mar­ket.

Your thoughts about the re­cent spate of high­pro­file restau­rants shut­ter­ing in Sin­ga­pore?

Sin­ga­pore is a small place with more than 2,500 restau­rants, so yes, it’s dif­fi­cult to keep the head above wa­ter.

What are your views on awards and ac­co­lades?

Awards and ac­co­lades have pushed Sin­ga­pore to be

recog­nised on the in­ter­na­tional food scene, but I will al­ways do what I think is good. At the end of the day, it is up to them to give the stars. But 11 years in Sin­ga­pore means that we are do­ing some­thing good even if we don’t get any stars.

As some­one who has been an early ad­vo­cate of ‘nat­u­ral cui­sine’, what’s your take on the cur­rent and en­dur­ing healthy food trend?

Healthy food is not just a trend. It is very im­por­tant, but I am not an ex­trem­ist of the healthy food. What is very im­por­tant for me to­day is to teach the younger gen­er­a­tion the im­por­tance of flavour and eating fresh, com­pared to all the fast food or oily stuff on the mar­ket. It is im­por­tant to know from where your prod­ucts are com­ing be­cause healthy in­gre­di­ents means healthy food.

How are you able to keep your prices rea­son­able, de­spite its fine din­ing la­bel?

Good and healthy in­gre­di­ents are ex­pen­sive; keep in mind that every­thing is im­ported from over­seas. Thus, we try to make a bal­ance in be­tween hum­ble in­gre­di­ents and lux­ury in­gre­di­ents.

With your re­cent ren­o­va­tion, what changes were you hop­ing to make?

In term of am­bi­ence, I re­ally wanted a restau­rant where I feel at home, and Art Nou­veau in­te­ri­ors are ex­tremely pop­u­lar in my home­town in Bel­gium.

I didn’t re­ally change my menu. I’ve just re­moved dishes that I was tired of and dishes which weren’t re­ally re­quested for such as roasted bone mar­row, onion soup and the dry-aged en­tre­cote. I’ve added some dishes that were cre­ated from my sea­sonal tray such as the smoked Alaskan king crab and the grilled ham­aguri. Now the menu re­ally fea­tures all my spe­cial­i­ties.

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