Nicolas Reynard – Executive Chef at Sodexo, Singapore
Nicolas Reynard works as a French Chef in Singapore. He has over 18 years of international experience. Today Nicolas is Executive Chef at Sodexo, Singapore. He loves and appreciates the benefits such as regulated working hours, less stress and still being able to cook very good food.
A chef portrait of Nicolas Reynard
Nicolas, where does your passion for cooking come from? And how do you manage to retain that passion over the years?
I have always been very passionate about food since my mother took me to my village market in Riez (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Southern France) and always cooked food by following the season.
Thinking about these great moments helps me to keep my passion at a very high level. When I have difficulties, I always think positively.
Which cooking school did you visit first in France?
Lycee Paul Arene of Sisteron (South of France).
In France you worked as a Chef in different places like the French Alps and Nice. How would you describe modern French cuisine today?
When I worked 13 years ago with Chef Jouni Tornamen in Nice, he invited me to the restaurant El Bulli in Spain. At that time, I had no idea about this restaurant. Chef Jouni told me that it is a place where he used to work. So I eat there and he explains to me that he has very good experiences and learns new techniques, but his way of cooking is completely different, because he loves to use very good quality products and to cook it the “old way”.
I visited Elbulli’s kitchen and was very impressed, but personally I had no feeling of working there and told myself that this type of restaurant does not work forever as it is not a natural cooking style like the Troisgros brothers, Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon, etc.
You’ve made your first overseas experience as a Chef in the UK. Hand on heart – what was your first impression of British cuisine?
It was a great short experience and I liked the ambiance in the kitchen! 😉 I learned everything about English jokes and my Chef was a typical English Chef who makes his own Yorkshire pudding from his grandmother’s recipe, fish pie, real fish and chips with beer and fresh peas from the garden.
I really like UK cuisine because they have really kept their traditional way of cooking.
You moved to Asia as a Chef and a job at the French restaurant Au Petit Salut in Singapore, where you worked under the direction of Chef Patrick Heuberger. This was followed by many different French cooking engagements in Thailand, Laos, Burma. What was your experience from that time: Do the French restaurants in Asia where you worked operated the same as in France? Or do you offer modified menus for local guests?
Yes, Asian and French tastes are different, so most French restaurants need to adjust their food, easily change the style with the country and also the ingredients they find in the country.
If a French restaurant is too French in some Southeast Asian countries, it probably will have failed or will work only with French customers, not local guests.
In any case, an ingredient that is imported into Southeast Asia will also have a taste change compared to its true taste because of the journey. (Eat an oyster in Brittany and eat the same Oyster from Brittany in Singapore, the taste will be completely different and lose at least 50% of its nutrients like its minerals that contain a lot of iodine.
Back in Singapore, you worked your way up to the Executive Chef position of the Absinthe Restaurant. What was your culinary setup there?
I took over from Chef François Mermilliod, who was my Chef, so I kept his culinary setup similar to mine (traditional French food using high quality ingredients and retaining most of their nutrients by using them naturally and not cooking too long).
After your time as Chef de cuisine at the legendary The Fullerton Hotel in Singapore, you are now working for Sodexo in Singapore. At Sodexo, Chefs cook for some of the most prestigious companies and run the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants daily. How would you describe your work today?
Today I am very happy to work with Sodexo because it means a great quality of life – like working time, less stress and still being able to cook great food. For example, I cook for the clients of the BNP Paribas Campus who expect high quality food.
How innovative can you be in your work?
I like to read books from the last generations of Chefs (Escoffier, Mere Brazier, Paul Bocuse, etc.) and I innovate by writing down and combining some recipes, creating dishes and menus with a bit of Southeastern local products that make sense in terms of taste.
The canteen catering/cooking is a rapidly changing segment; in a good way, so that cooking fresh and international influences become a part of it. What changes do you see in this segment?
As in other segments, customers today are more concerned about food additives that are present almost everywhere. Therefore, it is very important that the canteen catering/cooking follows and stops using processed food (or at least less).
Working in this segment as a Chef – What are your benefits?
Regular working hours, free weekends are great advantages as a Chef.
How would you describe your own culinary line after so many different experiences today?
I learned a lot about my environment (epigenetics), my decision was to change my environment by choosing this culinary line – cooking great food with less stress.
French-Asian fusion: what are some of your creations in this direction?
I only have a few “fusion” dishes, as you can see on my website: http://nkreynard.wixsite.com/chef
Singapore is becoming an interactive culinary hotspot: what are the latest trends you see?
Singapore is very tight in terms of ingredients as everything is imported, so I do not see many new trends, I see great restaurants that keep similar menus with similar products from 13 years ago and still work very well.
If you have a day off in Singapore, what are your favorite places to eat?
I do a lot of sports in recent years, so I rarely eat outside. Sometimes Chili Crab at Katong and Zaffron Kitchen at Katong, too.
Singapore is a great place for foreign Chefs to get in touch with Asia for the first time. Would you recommend working as a Chef there?
Yes, I recommend you to work and start a year or two in Singapore and to travel to many other countries in Southeast Asia to learn about the culture and food.
Thank you, Nicolas!