People 3 minutes 26 April 2019

5 Questions With Julien Royer On His Food Taking Flight

The chef of two-Michelin-starred Odette talks about taking his cuisine beyond Singapore shores into the sky with Air France and to Hong Kong for his first overseas foray.

5Qs new opening airlines

2019 is taking off in a big way for Julien Royer, chef and co-owner of two-Michelin-starred Odette in Singapore. From this month, passengers in La Premiere and business cabins on Air France flights from Singapore to Paris have begun tucking into exclusive dishes created by the chef.

He has designed 12 main dishes in his inimitable French style that will be rotated on board the long-haul flight over the course of a year. Highlights on La Premiere include the chef’s take on canard Apicius, with confit lemons adding a brightness to the savoury, spiced sauce, and roasted cod topped with Paimpol coconut, chorizo and piquillo peppers. Business class passengers can expect the likes of confit beef ribs with pot au feu vegetables, grilled Kurobuta pork with green Le Puy lentils and a colourful dish of grilled scallops with carrot mousseline and saffron nage.
Royer has just embarked on a year-long collaboration with Air France (Pic: Air France)
Royer has just embarked on a year-long collaboration with Air France (Pic: Air France)

This is the first time Air France has partnered with a Singapore-based chef for such a collaboration, the honour previously reserved for iconic French chefs like the late Joel Robuchon, Michel Roth and Anne-Sophie Pic for flights departing Paris. “It’s like if you were a French footballer and you were called up to play for the national team,” he says.

Come May, Royer will also venture out of Singapore for the first time with a new French restaurant in Hong Kong named Louise. The restaurant, set to open at PMQ in Sheung Wan, is a collaboration with Hong Kong’s JIA Group, whose portfolio of swanky establishments include 208 Duecento Otto, Potato Head Hong Kong, one-Michelin-starred Duddell’s in Central, Hong Kong and Duddell’s London. Aberdeen Street Social, opened in 2014 with British celebrity chef Jason Atherton, closed on 1 April and the space is undergoing a complete revamp by internationally acclaimed designer Andre Fu for Royer’s new restaurant.

Royer's new Hong Kong outpost will be at PMQ in Central. (Pic: PMQ website)
Royer's new Hong Kong outpost will be at PMQ in Central. (Pic: PMQ website)
“Louise allows me to really go back to my roots and rediscover the heritage recipes that I grew up with,” explains Royer, a French native from the region of Auvergne. “I want to create a comforting, heart-warming experience for guests. Even though the Hong Kong audience is global and diverse, we all find familiarity and nostalgia when quality ingredients and honest cooking are brought together in a warm atmosphere.”

His award-winning restaurant Odette in Singapore is named after his maternal grandmother who taught him respect for seasonality and produce, and inspired his modern French cooking philosophy.

The chef shares his familial inspirations behind Louise and his thoughts about taking his cuisine into the sky and beyond Singapore shores.

What are some of the challenges in translating a menu to be served thousands of feet up in the air?
Creating dishes in the air is completely different from creating meals on the ground. For one, the choice and selection of products need to be carefully considered, bearing in mind conditions in the cabin, like low air pressure and low air humidity, that can affect how food retains its freshness and moisture. Recipes and processes also have to be tweaked accordingly for optimal tastes, especially when consumed at that altitude. It took several months of working and refining the menu, but I’m proud to say that the dishes we’re putting forward are truly reflective of our commitment to quality and excellence.
Julien Royer on board flight AF 257 for the Oh My Chef! event (Pic: Air France)
Julien Royer on board flight AF 257 for the Oh My Chef! event (Pic: Air France)
When creating the menu for Air France, did you get to compare the taste of your dishes on land versus up in the sky?
During the development process, we did get to try the dishes in simulated environments (mimicking the conditions of an airplane cabin 40,000 feet in the air), to ensure that the dishes were of the best possible quality for our customers. Once the menus were officially launched, Air France organised its signature event, Oh My Chef!, on 9 April where I got to board the flight from Singapore to Paris-Charles de Gaulle, personally prepare dinner service for that flight, meet and interact with the passengers and gather some of their feedback on the signature dishes I had created for Air France’s La Première and Business Class cabins.

Your first overseas outpost is opening in Hong Kong soon and it’s going to be called Louise — can you tell us a bit more about who she is and how she’s inspired your cooking?
My family has always inspired me — even from a young age. My paternal grandparents had a small farm and my mother and grandmother would cook together using products harvested from their own land. They taught me how to be creative and innovative with even the simplest of ingredients.

Odette is named after my maternal grandmother, who believed that cooking was the ultimate expression of love for her family. I pay homage to her through my restaurant in Singapore by celebrating communal eating within a timeless setting. In Hong Kong, I will be paying tribute to my paternal grandparents — Jeanne Louise and Louis. It is a seemingly simple name that exudes regality and elegance, and perfectly encompasses how I see the culinary direction.

Unlike Odette’s fine-dining experience, Louise will take on a more casual approach, offering comforting French fare that was inspired by my early years and recipes I grew up with. We are still in the process of finalising the menu, but I'm very much looking forward to sharing about some of the signatures there soon.

How are you forming the culinary team at Louise?
We are building a very strong team for Louise, centred around the same spirit of dedication and innovation that we have in the kitchen at Odette. Team unity is key to our success, so I want to ensure we replicate that same environment of collaboration and creativity in Hong Kong, in order to produce the best possible experience for our customers.
Like Odette in Singapore, Louise in Hong Kong will exude elegance (Pic: Odette)
Like Odette in Singapore, Louise in Hong Kong will exude elegance (Pic: Odette)

With this partnership with Air France and new restaurant in Hong Kong, how do you feel about your cuisine going beyond Singapore shores?
It is a true privilege and I am very fortunate to be part of Air France’s first chef collaboration for flights from Singapore to Paris. For me, it is important to enjoy what I do, to work with people that I love and to serve beautiful food each and every day, and I am very grateful for the fantastic support we have had with Odette.

Hong Kong’s dining scene has also always been incredibly exciting and it felt like the stars were aligned when JIA group approached me. It is not only very established in the market, but also shares my perspective on hospitality while creating beautiful, authentic concepts.

I look forward to sharing my culinary philosophy and unique brand of hospitality with even more people in the future.

READ MORE: The First Day I Got My Michelin Star: Julien Royer Of Odette In Singapore


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