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First Day I Got My Michelin Stars: Anthony Charmetant And Mathieu Escoffier Of Ma Cuisine

We get the world's most celebrated chefs to spill what it was like when they got their first Michelin stars.
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When the MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2018 edition was launched in July, new entrant Ma Cuisine became possibly the first gastro wine bar to be recognised with a Michelin star. Ma Cuisine is helmed by co-owners Anthony Charmetant and Mathieu Escoffier, who bring their passion and knowledge of wine to the table.

With over 15 years’ experience in the wine industry, Charmetant’s specific knowledge of the winegrowers, vineyards, grapes and histories, and the colourful, irreverent way he tells these stories take guests on a voyage of discovery and is what makes the experience at Ma Cuisine unique.

The wine programme is complemented by the rustic French fare served up by Escoffier. With a strong understanding and fine appreciation for wines, he applies his culinary expertise to design a concise menu of French classics alongside daily specials and a cocotte of the day.
Anthony Charmetant and Mathieu Escoffier share their passion and insight into the wines at Ma Cuisine as part of the experience. (Pic: Ma Cuisine)
Anthony Charmetant and Mathieu Escoffier share their passion and insight into the wines at Ma Cuisine as part of the experience. (Pic: Ma Cuisine)
We speak with the duo to find out how they feel about receiving the accolade, just seven months into opening.

RELATED: First Look: Ma Cuisine 

What was your first encounter with the MICHELIN Guide?

ME: Michelin has always been a big deal to us back home in France. Since I was a young boy, my parents would take our family on gastronomic holidays to enjoy exceptional food and drink experiences listed in the MICHELIN Guide. I had my first encounter at 11 years old when we visited Chef Olivier Roellinger’s restaurant La Maison de Bricourt in Cancale, France. It held two Michelin stars at the time and is easily one of the most memorable dinners I have had in my life. Michelin was always a part of my upbringing and, as I trained as a chef, something I had dreamt of achieving.

AC: I had my first Michelin experience when I was 16 and worked in one-Michelin-starred Restaurant de L'hôtel de France. This was my first job and I was so proud to be there. I may not have been able to indulge in finer experiences then, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to be a part of this world. I went on to work in many Michelin-starred establishments, including Anne-Sophie PIC - The Restaurant. As our team worked tirelessly towards achieving three stars, I truly felt the amount of hard work and dedication required to earn a place in the MICHELIN Guide.
Escoffier, second from left, on stage at the MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2018 Gala (Pic: MICHELIN Guide Digital)
Escoffier, second from left, on stage at the MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2018 Gala (Pic: MICHELIN Guide Digital)
What was it like when your restaurant received a Michelin star for the first time?

AC: It took us completely by surprise. We weren’t expecting to receive this, especially after having been opened for just seven months. Ma Cuisine does not fit your typical restaurant mould and we are immensely grateful that Michelin recognised our wine-centric experience, amongst other fine establishments in Singapore. The MICHELIN Guide has evolved considerably to reflect the rich diversity in concepts worldwide, recognising neighbourhood pubs to local hawker stalls. Mathieu and I are excited to be a Michelin-starred gastro wine bar concept — the first and only in Asia.

ME: For any chef, it is an award of the highest order and affirmation of the quality experience we want to deliver to our wine lovers since we started. This will not change. We look forward to continue preparing simple and uncomplicated French fare in our relaxed space to accentuate the wines we have to share.

How did you celebrate?

ME: Anthony and I returned to Ma Cuisine where we opened a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée to celebrate with all our staff. It was the perfect time to gather and thank everyone for their efforts, reflect on what we have set out to achieve with Ma Cuisine and where we still wish to go.

AC: We’re fortunate to have such supportive guests and a strong team to achieve this together. We feel a great sense of national pride to receive the coveted Michelin star and be recognised internationally. The work is never finished, of course. We will strive to keep improving, to be better than yesterday.
The interiors are cosy and casual, imbued with vintage French style and contemporary sensibilities. (Pic: Ma Cuisine)
The interiors are cosy and casual, imbued with vintage French style and contemporary sensibilities. (Pic: Ma Cuisine)
How has the MICHELIN Guide impacted your career?

ME: Having trained as a chef and in many fine establishments throughout my career, the MICHELIN Guide definitely commands a certain respect and calibre of excellence. The level of discipline I’ve witnessed amongst my mentors and our peers is admirable. It has definitely influenced the way we strive to deliver the perfect wine experience each time at Ma Cuisine. Receiving the star doesn’t change Ma Cuisine — we will continue to share our passion for and help our guests discover quality wines with classic French comfort food.

AC: In the industry when you finally receive that recognition, it definitely changes things for the business. It pushes us to deliver the perfect gastro wine bar experience for every customer who walks through our door. We hope to draw more open-minded guests to discover Ma Cuisine over a bottle of wine, or two!
Wines are complemented by rustic French fare like this La Pissaladière (caramelised onion tart) and Le Jambon Persillé (terrine of pork shoulder). (Pic: Ma Cuisine)
Wines are complemented by rustic French fare like this La Pissaladière (caramelised onion tart) and Le Jambon Persillé (terrine of pork shoulder). (Pic: Ma Cuisine)
What advice do you have for young chefs aiming for Michelin stars?

ME: Do your job with passion and, honestly, don’t aim for Michelin stars. Continue to create your experience for your guests and for their pleasure — not the awards. Michelin stars are an added bonus and will follow naturally if you are doing it right.

AC: Don’t lose sight of your beliefs and identity. Focus on giving your best and bringing pleasure to your customers. These must never change — promising the highest quality, presenting an exciting offering, and consistency in excellence. A Michelin star is really the cherry on the cake, a validation of your hard work and that you delivered what you set out to do.
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