People 2 minutes 23 November 2016

The First Day We Got Our Stars: Julien Royer

The chef who grew up in France playing with Bibendum toys shares what it was like to receive his first MICHELIN stars for Odette in Singapore.

Chef Interview First Day Singapore

The Michelin Guide's star ratings mean the world for any chef but for those from France where it’s part of the national fabric, that reverence runs deep. So deep in fact that chef-owner Julien Royer of Odette grew up playing with Bibendum toys and played games with his colleagues to name every Michelin-starred restaurant in France as he entered the industry.

Fast forward a couple of decades later, Royer is now at the helm of his own two-Michelin-starred restaurant. The accolade means so much to him that he teared up while breaking the news to his family over the phone. We get the affable chef to tell us more.
Odette's entrance
Odette's entrance
My first encounter with the Michelin Guide was... something I don't even remember, to be honest. It’s simply legendary and has always been in my life. It has been in existence since 1900 and is considered a part of French national culture. Almost every household owns a copy of the guidebook back in France. My hometown is very close to Clermont-Ferrand where the Michelin headquarters are. I grew up with Bibendum toys and have been using Michelin maps and e-maps even before Google Maps.

When I became a professional chef, I used to play this game with my colleagues and could name almost every one-, two- and three-starred restaurant in the Michelin Guide to France by heart - and the French edition is a very thick book!

The day my restaurant received two stars, I was working with the team in the kitchen and it was a very busy day. I returned to my phone much later to realise that I had missed 2 calls from a private number. I had also received numerous texts from friends who had heard that representatives from Michelin were calling nominated restaurants to inform them of the results.

While preparing to leave for the Michelin Guide Singapore gala dinner at 5.30pm, I received another call from the representative, but I was so stunned I was not sure if I had heard him or her correctly. My wife happened to come home at this time and as she's very aware of the process too, she asked me if I had received the call. It was the first time since that call that I voiced out the result...and I told her that I thought it was two but I was not sure. That's how stunned and I was. I couldn't believe it!

When we finally arrived at the gala and found out that we were really being awarded two stars, we were overjoyed. I called my family in Cantal immediately after to share the good news. We were all in tears on both ends of the line. They were ecstatic.

(Related: The Illustrated Guide to Michelin's Inspection Process)

The first thing I did after receiving the stars was head to the official party at Tanjong Beach Club to celebrate with other chefs in Singapore. Once we got back to the restaurant, we gathered the team and celebrated with champagne.

I can't stress more that it's the restaurant that is awarded and not me. So this recognition was earned through teamwork. I'm incredibly lucky to have the best team. The team has grown tremendously over the past year and I am wowed daily by their heartfelt dedication, passion, skills and professionalism. I am so proud of them.
Odette's Lemon Tart
Odette's Lemon Tart
How much influence has the Michelin Guide had on your career? I have trained in several Michelin-starred restaurants in the early years of my career, so I would say the hard work, dedication, perseverance, attention to detail and commitment needed to obtain a Michelin star has definitely inspired and influenced the way I work and cook today.

(Related: What The Michelin Guide's Symbols Mean)

The first piece of advice I would give to young chefs aiming for Michelin stars is, well, not to aim for Michelin stars. Michelin stars should not be regarded as the goal in itself, but rather the bonus on top of achieving your goals.

Aim to achieve and deliver top quality products, develop a mastery of flavour, hone your cooking techniques and build your own culinary personality. Aim to be able to share and teach and always remember the importance of team work. Above all, work on delivering this consistently. If a young chef focuses on these points, it will pay off on the plate, guests will be satisfied and peers and institutions will recognise this too.

The people you meet along the way are vital to your growth. Never stop learning from your peers, partners, suppliers, collaborators and fellow creators. It is important to continuously broaden your worldviews and expose yourself to differing perspectives. Creating a dining experience is also a collective effort. Recognise, value and respect everyone who comes your way for their individual contributions and qualities.

Most importantly, love what you do and believe in your work.

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