Buzzwords are a chef’s worst nightmare. Built around hype, they spark fads that wear off as quickly as they begin.But for Julien Royer, chef-owner of two Michelin-star Odette in the National Gallery Singapore, buzzwords are ace.
“I think it is fantastic if (buzzwords are) used honestly by brands,” says Royer.
At 35, the Cantal-born has worked in the kitchens of top chefs like Michel Bras and Jean Georges Vongerichten. At modern European restaurant JAAN, Royer was touted as a chef to watch. Odette was the most anticipated restaurant opening in 2015, when news broke that Royer was leaving JAAN.
His kitchen is his happy place. Few know that behind the glass-panelled sliding doors, the good-looking French chef enjoys singing along to “Aux Champs Elysées” by Joe Dassin while prepping for service. But it is no secret that when it comes to his food, Royer champions the use of artisanal produce and working with small-time farmers.
“To me, the definition of artisanal is (something) made in a traditional way using high-quality ingredients,” says Royer.
“So, an artisan is someone who honours tradition and brings everything back to the basics.”
Take the asparagus he uses. The spring vegetable is best savoured within a month from mid-April, and the finest crop is grown in Pertuis, in the south of France. At Odette, Royer works solely with Robert Blanc, a farmer in Villelaure, just next to Pertuis, who grows what is regarded as the Hermès of asparagus.
Each harvested spear is straight as an arrow, firm yet tender, and yields a natural sweetness with nutty notes. Royer plays up this spring vegetable with a slow-cooked egg, morel mushrooms glazed with vin jaune (a dry white wine produced in Jura, France) and pea sprouts.
The same focus is given to the champagnes and coffees that are paired with his food.
Says Royer: “I have a deep admiration for the work (artisans) do with their hands. I think it’s a beautiful tradition that needs to last.”