Chef-owner, Gunther’s Modern French Cuisine
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.