Interview with Le Bistrot du Sommelier’s Chef Brandon Foo on French cuisine in Singapore
It’s not easy being the chef de cuisine of a French Bistrot in Asia but Brandon Foo has come this far and we are itching to know how
Having joined the French Bistrot known as Le Bistrot du Sommelier five years ago, Chef Brandon Foo is gearing up to be one of the game changers in the Singapore’s dining scene. The self-taught chef has had the privilege of working under several renowned international masters. Over the last few years, Foo has garnered numerous accolades that have put his 100-seat Bistro, in the heart of the Central Business District, on the radar of those in search of fine cuisine. In 2017, he participated in the International Catering Cup — the Olympics for the culinary world if you will — and is gearing up to participate in the event when 2019 rolls around.
On a local scale, the rising star is one of the participants in the World Gourmet Summit 2017. Collaborating with the chef at Coconut Club, we will have a chance to see an East meets West menu come July. Foo best describes it as “French cooking local and local cooking French”. His wealth of experience stems from his stints in countries such as France, Switzerland and Australia as well as having been trained by Patrick Heuberger of Au Petit Salut at the age of 21. From pastries to meats, Foo has tried his hand at them all and it is a delight for food lovers in Singapore to enjoy the best that he has to offer. We steal a few minutes away from his busy schedule to find out what makes him tick and what he enjoys about French cuisine in Singapore.
What made you decide to pursue a career in the kitchen?
I started cooking when I was 10 years old and I usually cooked with my mum. She influenced me and inspired me a lot, as well as my grandmother. Every weekend I would whip up a meal for my family, normally Chinese food, which is where I found my interest in cooking.
It was quite interesting for me to work in a professional kitchen. I learnt how to be punctual at work and disciplined as well as to have teamwork. It was a big challenge for me but I managed to do it. I proved my abilities to the chef so from there the chef recommended me to my current mentor, Patrick (Heuberger) when he was still the executive chef of Au Petit Salut.
You worked under some Michelin starred chefs. Could you tell me more about them and what you learnt from them?
Patrick Heuberger. He was my first mentor and he was the first French guy that I dealt with and he taught me a lot of French technique. For example, how to handle vegetables and meats. I learned a lot from him. Even now if I don’t understand how something should be done I’ll refer to him.
Generosity saves you. Generous in your cooking, generous in your portioning, generous in not only giving but in the way you deal with people.
What would you say is the defining moment in your career?
I would have to say it would be this year when I got the bronze medal (at the International Catering Cup). It was really amazing and the feeling is wonderful when you’re able to fly your country’s flag in Lyon, the capital of food. You feel really proud.
Let’s talk about your day to day in terms of cooking, what is your philosophy, the one thing you always stand by when you cook?
No shortcuts. This is the lesson I learned from Patrick: because once you take a shortcut the taste of the product will turn out differently. This is what I keep in mind while cooking and teaching people.
Where do you find your inspiration when you are coming out with a new dish or conceptualising a new menu?
Reading a lot of books; meeting people, travelling, the market. The recent trip I made was to France with my coach for the competition. We made a lot of sausages (gestures) as you can see over there Chorizo is his signature. If you sell Chorizo you’re not allowed to smoke the chorizo. But this isn’t France. I saw him making it and I felt it was nice but also that it was lacking something. So, when I came back I made the chorizo and smoked it. The results turned out pretty well. I broke the rules.
Outside of the kitchen, who is another chef in Singapore that you admire or whose work that you enjoy eating?
Jason Tan the chef of Corner House as well as the pastry chef of Corner House. Not simply because I really like his job but his work of pastry and the taste of his pastry is what I would call perfection. Same to Jason Tan, I had an unforgettable experience in his restaurant.
Speaking of unforgettable experiences, has there been a dining experience whether in Singapore or overseas that you will always remember?
Yes! When I was doing stage (an unpaid internship) in Restaurant Régis & Jacques Marcon, for two weeks. They invited me for a dinner and it was out of this world. It was two years back, but the meal, the experience, the service… you have a chance to tour the restaurant and kitchen. And the kitchen is very well set up. Also, you can tour the gallery in the restaurant. People call this guy a mushroom hunter; mushrooms inspire everything he does. The whole night was filled with surprises in term of the food. I usually only get to touch the food and cook the food, I don’t really have the opportunity to taste it. So, when I got to taste it I was just blown away.
Three things that we’ll always find in your fridge or kitchen?
Shallots, Garlic, Parsley. Shallots: French cuisine uses a lot of shallots and onions because it’s an aromatic vegetable and it gives a lot of flavour to the food. I always tell my guys I can’t cook without these three things; it’s just the foundation.
What are your guilty pleasures?
A glass of white wine, Sauvignon Blanc.
So you’ve worked at many different places: Singapore, Switzerland, France, Australia would you say the scene there is different from the culinary scene in Singapore?
The young people over there, like young chefs or apprentices, are more enthusiastic about their work. They don’t complain, they just do. You give them a task, even if they’re really sick they’ll still come to you. I think it’s the spirit and energy that’s different from Singapore.
What about the French food scene in Singapore?
I think French food is starting to be recognised here. But I think Singapore is not really on par with them — we’re still getting there.