At three-MICHELIN-star restaurant Les Amis in Singapore, director of culinary and operations Sebastien Lepinoy starts his day in a private office with a window overlooking the kitchen. This first quiet hour of the day is a sacred time for the chef. “My morning ritual always starts with coffee,” he says. “The coffee is my fuel for the day, without it I cannot start.” Coffee in one hand and phone in another, the chef begins each work day by liaising with his suppliers in France to check on the most important building blocks of the cuisine — the produce.
Quality and consistency
Les Amis is a temple to classic French haute cuisine, a culinary tradition that upholds the strictest standards, from the exacting cooking techniques to its requisite reliance on seasonal ingredients. “My cuisine is purely based on French ingredients, on the season and on the quality of these ingredients,” says Lepinoy.
Besides acquiring ingredients at their highest quality, consistency is of paramount importance. “You can find a lot of good quality ingredients, but sourcing ingredients that are consistently good is much more difficult. In a three-MICHELIN-star restaurant, you cannot have ups and downs. When you buy meat or fish, it must be always perfect. And this is an intentional effort that I put in every day.”
Building deep relationships with partners
To that end, Lepinoy has spent years fostering relationships with his partners. “I know my partners, some of them for more than 20 years. It’s a close relationship. All my partners — from the fishermen to those who provide truffle, olive oil, or lobster — we know each other. We will never buy something if we don’t know where it comes from,” says the chef emphatically.
“It is the same with coffee. I have been working with Nespresso for more than 10 years,” Lepinoy says. He began working with the renowned coffee company at the now-defunct MICHELIN-star Cépage in Hong Kong, and decided continue serving its Exclusive Selections range of coffee at Les Amis when he returned to Singapore to take over the restaurant's helm in 2013.
Finding inspiration at the Nespresso Masterclass
To give their guests and customers a deeper understanding of the provenance and quality of its coffees, Nespresso conducts periodic masterclasses at its boutiques and upon request from its Nespresso Professional business partners such as Les Amis.
In a special session conducted by Nespresso coffee bard Jason Huang, Lepinoy and Les Amis’ acclaimed pastry chef Cheryl Koh were given a customised tasting session of the Nespresso Exclusive Selection Kenya Milima and Nepal Lamjung coffees, a collection only available in MICHELIN-starred restaurants around the world.
In the interactive masterclass, the chefs were walked through Nespresso’s cherry-to-cup story, the harvesting processes behind each blend and how they help to shape the unique flavours and aromas present in each coffee. The Exclusive Selection Nepal Lamjung and Kenya Milima offer very distinct but complementary profiles, and they are versatile coffees that can be used in combination with other flavours to create exciting new dishes, explained Jason.
After the masterclass, the chefs found new inspiration to create two new desserts for the restaurant menu, Lepinoy shares, adding that coffee is the perfect way to end a full classic French degustation menu. In one creation, he chose to use the Nespresso Exclusive Selection Kenya Milima in a classic French mille-feuille, by sandwiching a coffee and chocolate-flavoured crème patissierre between delicate, flaky layers of puff pastry. The Kenya Milima coffee beans are grown on rich volcanic soils in the Kenyan highlands and have distinctive juicy, citrus-like notes, which the chef particularly appreciates. “The citrus brings a freshness to the dessert while the cereal notes complement the puff pastry. When our guests crack through the puff pastry, they will experience the intensity of the coffee and how fresh it is," he explains.
For their second creation, a delicate sugar sphere, the chef opted for the Nespresso Exclusive Selection Nepal Lamjung, a coffee sourced from the Himalayan foothills that has a velvety texture and fresh notes of toasted bread. “For the sugar sphere, I needed a more delicate coffee because the whole dessert has just one flavour — coffee — but we present it in three different textures and three different temperatures,” he explains. Shaped like a sugar-spun snowglobe, the sphere is set atop a coffee coulis and cracks open to reveal coffee-infused mousse and ice cream.
The quality of the coffee, therefore, is both the highlight and the crux of the dessert. “My philosophy is to respect each ingredient by bringing it to its maximum potential while keeping its natural shape and flavour. When I have good ingredients, even fantastic ingredients, then we can work.”
Nespresso Exclusive Selections are only available in MICHELIN-starred restaurants around the world.