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You cook with your heart, so the food tastes good: Chef Julien Royer

Cooking with heart: Julien Royer

Cooking with heart: Julien Royer  

Julien Royer talks about his Michelin-star restaurant, named after his grandmother, and about breaking the stiff image of fine-dining

The Masters of Marriott is an international programme that brings in renowned chefs from different parts of the world. The idea is to expose patrons to culinary excellence, and also to give their own chefs a learning experience. In India, the first to come in was Marco Pierre White, at The St Regis Mumbai. The second has been Julien Royer, the co-owner of Odette, a two-Michelin-starred Modern French restaurant located at the National Gallery Singapore. In Delhi, he speaks about his approach to cooking and fine dining.

You cook with your heart, so the food tastes good: Chef Julien Royer

What was it like to move from a French farm to cosmopolitan Singapore?

Initially it was very hard, because I didn’t have many memories of going to a supermarket to shop. We ate our own vegetables, we had fruit trees, and pork.

In Singapore, I realised that 90% of what we eat is imported. So it was a big shock and a bit of a challenge. Singapore has strong logistics when it comes to importing products, so I can get seafood from Japan on a daily basis; three or four times a week I can get some product from Europe; we can get fruits, vegetables, spices from Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia. It is a very interesting palate of ingredients to work with at the end of the day.

Your food has a huge Japanese influence…

It’s true. I really have a big admiration for the Japanese respect for food and techniques of cooking. We try to do a cuisine that is easy to understand and we try to keep the natural purity and beauty of every single ingredient. In Singapore, we have very warm water, so the fish are not really top quality. It’s better to import fish from Japan.

Why is it that food, when taken out of its context, doesn’t taste the same?

You cook with your heart, so the food tastes good: Chef Julien Royer

I think we have an emotional aspect when it comes to food. I always remember eating beautiful oysters in the south of Brittany three years ago. Because we spent the day with the oyster guy, because he gave us a box of oysters, and because we had a bottle of white wine and we opened the oysters ourselves, by the sea, listening to the waves, it tasted so good. Was it the best oyster I ever had? I’m not sure. But the moment — I will always remember.

The last time I was in Paris, I ate a croissant with coffee. It was so good. The last time in Japan too I had a very good croissant. Which was the best for me? It was the one in Paris. The surroundings are very important.

So I cannot do French classic cooking in Singapore, and we try to incorporate a wide variety of influences from Asia.

We are moving from experiences to moments. How do you bring that into your restaurant?

The restaurant is named after my grandma, because this is exactly what she was creating. She transformed the little moments we had with her into memories we have for life. This is what I share with my team every day — to transform people’s moments into memories.

It’s easy to cook for my friends, family, because you’re cooking for someone you love. You cook with your heart, so the food tastes good. But when you’re applying that to a restaurant, you don’t know the people and you still need to give the same amount of love and energy to it.

What are the best reactions you’ve had from people?

I’ve seen people licking the plate, which was really nice. People crying, because a dish reminded them of a moment in their life — that’s something so strong. That’s why I believe the emotional aspect in food is really important.

The feel of Odette is feminine…

Yes, that was done on purpose. We really wanted to drag the rules of fine dining being stiff, dark, masculine, with a lot of grey. I wanted the space to be bright, engaging, feminine, and welcoming. I want people to feel comfortable.

Does food have a gender?

The soft approach to food makes it better. Any food, the more carefully you touch it, the better the result with the product. In terms of plating and presentation, it’s better to have soft touches.

This is what I like personally: delicate plating and flavours. Maybe it also depends on the season: autumn and winter flavours are male and spring and summer will be more feminine.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 10:47:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/julien-royer-the-masters-of-marriott-marco-pierre-white-the-st-regis-mumbai/article26598524.ece

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