Slurp Exclusive- Chef Julien On Special Menu And Holding On To the Michelin Title
Image Credit: Odette Julien Royer

Chef Julien Royer to bring Singapore’s acclaimed three Michelin-starred Odette restaurant to the Maldives. The modern French restaurant is guided by Royer’s lifelong respect for seasonality, terroir and artisanal produce. While underpinned by the principles of French cuisine, his years in Asia have infused his approach with a sense of place. 

Taking the helm for the residency is Odette’s Singaporean Chef de Cuisine, Naka Xiong, who brings his reverence for nature and affinity with seafood to realise a gastronomic experience infused with vibrant tropical flavours and an ingenious Southeast Asian identity, befitting of Soneva Fushi’s idyllic island setting.

Chef will be hosting an exclusive 10-week residency at Soneva Fushi’s Flying Sauces -  the only fine dining zipline experience. The concept will offer both a pescatarian and a vegetarian menu to Soneva Fushi’s guests. Highlights include: the Soneva Garden Salad, featuring foraged or farmed ingredients from Soneva’s own organic gardens or the Maldives; Basmati Donabe, celebrating the importance of the humble grain across Southeast Asia, with herbs sourced from the island, accentuated with pomelo, sakura ebi, shallots and puffed wild rice; and Tuna Flower, with sustainably caught local tuna given a citrus kick from the yuzu kosho, tempered by a refreshing green grape and almond nage.

What was that one driving factor behind you becoming a chef?

My grandmother is my greatest source of inspiration for me to become a chef. I was born in the countryside in Cantal, France, a region with a rich agricultural history. We lived off the land and were able to enjoy an abundance of fresh produce which my grandmother would turn into the most delicious meals with the simplest ingredients. 

She made me realise how joy and love can be demonstrated through food. Growing up, my favourite part of the day would be the moments spent in the kitchen or the home-cooked meals we sat down to as a family. I witnessed then how much joy and love food could bring to others and it inspired me to want to do the same.

Tell us something about what kind of pressure there is while working in acclaimed three Michelin-starred restaurants?

The Michelin Guide is highly acclaimed and is an international benchmark of culinary excellence and we continue to be inspired by the restaurants on the list. At Odette, the team continues to set high standards for ourselves, devoting ourselves to grow and learn in order to present our best for our guests. At the end of the day, the core of our kitchen and restaurant is about offering unintimidating, honest cooking that makes remarkable ingredients shine, and we will continue to offer experiences that prioritise the simple genuine pleasures of enjoying a meal. 

Fusion food is gaining a lot of attention. What is your idea of Fusion food and what has been your best creation?

The culinary approach at Odette we’ve developed is guided by our lifelong respect for seasonality, terroir and artisanal produce. It’s also a cuisine that reflects a sense of place – the crossroads of Southeast Asia with an influx of cultural influences. We’ve evolved to marry the principles of French cuisine with inspiration from Asia’s rich culinary heritage, unique ingredients from across the region and familiar local flavours, it opens us to exciting possibilities.

In our signature Kampot Pepper Pigeon, we use a special Kampot pepper from Cambodia, imparting a distinctive fragrance and spice with a long-lasting finish. We try to use every single part of the pigeon so nothing is left to waste. It’s prepared in various ways, showcasing the many facets of flavour and texture within. Comprising confit leg, breast which is pan-seared to finish, a pigeon liver parfait, barbecued pigeon heart tempura, or a heart and liver samosa. 

When designing a kitchen team what things do you take into consideration?

A great kitchen team begins from having a positive and open-minded attitude. We value people who are passionate about the industry, motivated to learn and grow with us, and always up for a challenge. Above all else–it’s teamwork. A chef is only as great as the team who supports and believes in him or her. I call my team at Odette our “Marchands de Bonheur” (Merchants of Happiness). Across the kitchen, floor, and office, everyone collaboratively shares my vision and works together with relentless dedication. 

What plans for the menu do you have at Soneva Fushi’s Flying Sauces?

Being in the heart of the tropics gives us excellent access to an abundance of fresh, local produce that we can explore a world of possibilities through our menu creations. With an emphasis on native ingredients such as featuring the Maldivian tuna in the intricate Tuna Flower course, the menu will showcase produce at its seasonal peak, reflective of the Odette experience. 

Tell us about the preparations that have gone into place for designing the menu for your Flying Sauces pop up?

Our Chef De Cuisine, Naka Xiong, who is helming the 10-week residency has designed a menu that strikes a chord with his personality. We see him bringing his affinity for seafood through the use of Hokkaido scallops, Thai Velouté, and local Tuna in some of the courses. His reverence for nature also shines through in the colourful Soneva Garden Salad and Basmati Donabe–both plates are an ethereal display of fresh herbs grown right here in the gardens.

Tell us something about Claudine?

Claudine is a place for all occasions – friends and families to gather, date nights, a quick business lunch, guests out of town. It is what I believe a French restaurant should be today, influenced by who I am and my upbringing growing up eating meals at home with my family. 

I wanted to create a more casual concept while being a place that serves high-quality French food in a comfortable atmosphere where people can relax, have a good time and enjoy warm hospitality and a convivial atmosphere. The menu is rooted in French traditional recipes, but there’s always often a personal twist in there either from my time in Asia, from my mum, or my own take on it.

What do you believe does it take to sustain competition?

At Odette, we continue to devote ourselves to growing, innovating and cooking with our hearts. The challenge we have set for ourselves is to do better than the day before, and always present the very best for our guests.