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The secrets of their Michelin-starred success

Hard work, the support of a dedicated team and a commitment to constant evolution have helped these chefs from Meta, Saint Pierre and Odette achieve personal and professional successes.

The secrets of their Michelin-starred success

From left: Meta's chef Sun Kim, Saint Pierre's Emmanuel Stroobant and Odette’s Julien Royer cite a willingness to incorporate Asian flavours into their cooking as being among the reasons for their culinary achievements. Photo: Meta, Saint Pierre, Odette

To the uninitiated, being a vegetarian might sound like an obstacle to achieving culinary greatness. To chef Emmanuel Stroobant of Saint Pierre, this has only helped him to raise his game.

Since he became a vegetarian eight years ago for health reasons, his sense of taste and smell has heightened and he now has a “better sensibility to spices and salt”.

It’s also helped him better understand diners with unique dietary requirements.

EMMANUEL STROOBANT: MAKING FINE DINING INCLUSIVE

Saint Pierre's dishes are culinary and artistic treats for diners. Photos: Saint Pierre

Said Stroobant: “I’m able to put myself in the shoes of my diners who request vegetarian and vegan options. In the past, I lacked the personal experience and technical know-how to cater to them. Being a vegetarian has also opened my mind on allergies and dietary restrictions for medical or religious reasons.”

While some may view this as restrictive, Stroobant enjoys the challenge of making non-meat ingredients as flavourful as meats and seafood and presenting them in an aesthetically pleasing fashion.

His philosophy behind this is simple: “Fine dining should not be exclusive. It should be completely inclusive,” he said.

SUN KIM: A COMMITMENT TO INNOVATION

Meta offers a modern twist on popular dishes like Korean barbecue platters and tacos. Photos: Meta

The need to constantly evolve is also embraced by Meta’s chef Sun Kim.

When he first started out in the field, Kim wanted to inject elements of Korean cuisine into his dishes but he wasn’t trained in Korean cooking techniques.

“Most chefs are trained traditionally in European techniques. I wanted to interpret what I grew up eating as a child with these techniques that I learnt over the years.

"When I opened Meta in 2015, I was still figuring out what worked best for us as a restaurant. Over the years, we found our style in terms of flavours and the way we cook our food,” he said.

To keep abreast of developing trends, he makes it a point to eat at more unconventional restaurants – some of which may not even be well known – every time he returns to Korea. “These restaurants are hidden gems that inspire me to think more about how I create the seasonal menus at Meta,” he said.

JULIEN ROYER: FRENCH CUISINE MEETS ASIA

Odette retains its French roots but also incorporates Asian ingredients into dishes like its mushroom tea and Hokkaido sea urchin. Photos: Odette

When Odette’s chef-owner Julien Royer first arrived in Singapore in 2011 to take the reins of Brasserie Les Saveurs at The St Regis Singapore, his cuisine was distinctly French – think Angus beef tartar with black truffle emulsion and milk-fed veal rack with mashed potatoes and confit garlic.

But he soon realised the importance of understanding “who you are cooking for and where you’re cooking at”.

“Having spent over a decade in Singapore and Asia, my cooking has evolved considerably to reflect a sense of place,” explained Royer. “The DNA of my cooking is French because that’s the way I was trained to cook, but the cuisine at Odette is inspired by Asia’s rich culinary heritage, unique ingredients from across the region, and familiar local flavours. By doing so, we bring a sense of freshness, elegance and refinement to our cuisine.”

REACHING GREATER HEIGHTS WITH STRONG SUPPORT

Today, among their many accolades, Odette boasts three Michelin stars, Saint Pierre two, and Meta one.

Yet ask these chefs about their secrets to success and they are quick to credit the people around them. In the restaurant business, especially, no man can be an island.

“There is no shortcut to get where you want in the culinary world, it takes a lot of hard work and having a strong supportive team. Success to me is having a team that gives me unconditional support,” said Kim.

Royer added: “The secret, I would say, is the hard work and dedication of everyone who works tirelessly to deliver the Odette experience.”

Royer also believes that success is all about the customer – it’s important that the restaurant is “judged by the indelible memories that we create for our guests and at the end of the day, a restaurant full of happy guests is what we’re after”.

Kim also attests to the importance of strong support at home. He said: “The number one person I could not live without with would be my wife. She has been my number one supporter since the start, she understands the hours I had to put in to be where I am today.”

The Michelin stars and accolades have given the chefs the confidence to strive for greater heights.

Said Royer: “While the accolades are an affirmation of the hard work of my team, it also means that we are held to the highest level of hospitality. It’s important to stay grounded and not lose sight of our true goal – offering sincere, genuine hospitality while conveying emotions through food.”

Ultimately, maintaining an award-winning restaurant is an ongoing quest, both personal and professional for these chefs.

As Stroobant put it: “I always aim to learn and strive a little more today than yesterday. The best is yet to be.”

Said Royer: “The challenge we’ve set for ourselves is to always do better than we did yesterday and constantly set high standards for ourselves.”

“And of course, to have a little fun while doing so,” he added with a smile.

Odette, Saint Pierre and Meta are among the 10 Michelin-starred restaurants featured under Citi ULTIMA’s Gastronomic Dining Collection, an exclusive year-round partnership with Michelin Singapore.

Step into the upper echelon of bespoke dining privileges with Gastronomic Dining Collection. Citi ULTIMA cardmembers will enjoy priority booking at selected one- to three-Michelin-starred restaurants, receive invitations to indulge in monthly chef-curated menus and meet the chefs behind the creations.

To enquire about the Citi ULTIMA Card, call the Citi ULTIMA service line at +65 6225 5222.

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