Chef Julien Royer Of Michelin-Starred Odette Just Wants to “Cook to Make People Happy”
With three Michelin stars secured for another year, Odette, ranked eighth on this year’s The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, continues its unwavering growth. And chef-owner Julien Royer is not ready to slow down just yet. Last November, he opened his second restaurant in Singapore, Claudine, with The Lo & Behold Group.
It’s clear that the boyish talent from Cantal has matured considerably and his confidence has grown by leaps since his early days in Singapore as chef de cuisine at Jaan and Brasserie Les Saveurs at The St Regis Singapore. Each year, his food becomes more well thought out and increasingly sought after. There’s no questioning the depth of his dedication and the breadth of his skill.
Indeed, Royer believes his cuisine has evolved. It remains fundamentally French but is widely inspired by Asia. “I put a lot less salt, sugar and fat in my cooking than I did 10 years ago,” he shares. “There’s less on the plate and more focus on ingredients, garnish and sauce. The more you mature as a chef, the more you realise that what’s important is spending time sourcing.” For him, it’s about subtraction rather than addition on his plates.
As a level-headed mentor, Royer never fails to commend his team. There’s no kitchen rage (common in certain legendary restaurants). Royer very rarely swears or shouts at people even when frustrated. If one peeks into Odette’s kitchen, one will see that everybody is calm and composed.
After six years and many accolades, it’s a well-oiled machine. “The longevity in a restaurant is when you have people who stay with you. At Odette, we have more than 10 people who have been with us since pre-opening. We take care of our people. We give them freedom and space for their own creativity. And we empower them. I want people to be happy, to have fun at work, to feel comfortable and proud.” Despite their demanding schedule, the team usually eat staff meals together before service starts. Some of Royer's chefs have also travelled with him for overseas collaborations at top-notch restaurants such as France’s Mirazur.
“The awards push us to be better, but we never lose focus of who we cook for. We cook for our guests. We’re not cooking for any guide, ranking or stars. We cook to make people happy.”
This ethos can be seen in Claudine as well, which is named after his mother (Odette is named after his grandmother). “It’s linked to my roots and who I am,” he says.
Nestled in a carefully conserved former chapel on Harding Road, the new concept is designed for a wider audience who’ll get to savour French cuisine in a relaxed setting. Claudine is how he envisions a French restaurant to be in 2021. “It won’t be too old-school, but it will be eclectic,” he enthuses. When the highly anticipated restaurant started accepting bookings two weeks before its launch, it garnered a massive waiting list.
We cook for our guests. We’re not cooking for any guide, ranking or stars. We cook to make people happy
“Claudine is a place you can go to for great French cuisine that is friendly, well-executed and produce-focused, using the same quality ingredients as a Michelin-starred restaurant,” he adds. The cuisine is eclectic, featuring regional influences, including recipes from Cantal, where Royer grew up. Even with their humble background, his grandmother and mother always cooked the best food for the family. Guests can savour traditional dishes that his mother cooks back home, such as truffade (sautéed potatoes with Cantal cheese) and chou farci (pork-stuffed cabbage). There are also creations such as a boldly flavoured bouillabaisse, which Royer enjoys rustling up for friends, as well as bistro fare such as flambéed steak au poivre, which he enjoys eating back in France.
“It’ll be convivial and generous,” he promises. “The spirit of hospitality is very important. We want people to feel at home. We want to make sure we know our guests. We want them to come often and we want to customise the experience for them each time. That’s why we’re going through a very long process of training.”
His direction for this year is to carry on the growth of Odette. “We want to keep refining the dining experience; this is what drives everything else,” he explains. “We question ourselves every day about what we can do better. This is a constant exercise and the endless learning that we do as a team. I want everyone to cook like they’re doing it for their family or loved ones.”
As for Claudine, Royer is aiming for quality and consistency. “Ultimately, this would drive a very healthy business,” he says. “I want honesty, humility and integrity to be at the core of what we do.”
See more honourees from the Food & Beverage category of the Gen.T List.