Stephane Istel – Co-owner & Executive Chef of Bar-Roque Grill
Stephane Istel has been on a culinary journey from France to the Caribbean, USA, Canada and now Singapore. He has cooked for 20 years and is now the culinary mind of Bar-Roque.
Chef portrait – Stephane Istel
Hi, Stephane! What inspired you to become a chef?
My mum is an amazing cook and my childhood is filled with memories of us cooking together at home. Safe to say, but she’s the one who inspired me to be a chef and to start culinary school.
Which cooking school did you attend?
I attended the local culinary school in Strasbourg in the Alsace region of France.
Is there a particular anecdote that stands out for you as a trainee chef?
When I was working at Daniel Boulud in New York, I fell down the stairs in the kitchen with 50 litres of hot chicken stock. I suffered third degree burns and had to spend 4 months in the hospital afterwards going through skin surgery. It was the most horrible and painful experience of my life. I went back to the kitchen after 8 months but it was like I had lost all my love and feelings for cooking. I was scared of the hot kitchen and so I decided to go back to France and learn another job and do a foundation course.
But Daniel Boulud didn’t give up on me and he pushed me to come back and give cooking another try. Which is what I did and it’s how I fell in love with cooking again. At the end of the day, I think that part of my life made me much stronger and more determined to succeed.
What’s a dish that you have created that you’re most proud of and why?
I don’t have a specific dish that I’m most proud of. Every day as a chef, it’s amazing just to get a new seasonal product to work with.
Can you share one of your latest favourite dish/recipes with us?
Last week I ordered half a free-range pig that weighed 38kg. We created 5 different amazing dishes and terrine with the pig and it was amazing to use all parts and transform it into amazing dishes within just one week. We’re really so lucky to be able to create every day. To us, it’s not just work, it’s a passion!
What are the latest trends that you see in Singapore’s kitchen/chef scene?
The food scene in Singapore is always evolving and changing. I believe the trend at the moment is healthy food as well as Mediterranean cuisine. There are also lots of celebrity chefs arriving in Singapore e.g. Anne Sophie Pic, Alain Ducasse in 2019 so it’s always very exciting.
Is there any place in the world where you would like to work as a chef one day?
I would like to travel and discover new food cultures and acquire a deeper understanding of different food products as well. My dream is to create a restaurant, with a cooking school and a garden where I’ll be able to grow my own organic produce and really create an amazing ecosystem.
How would you describe your culinary style at Bar-Roque Grill and Do.Main Deli & Bistrot?
At both my restaurants we’re all about bringing people together to enjoy quality French cuisine. Bar-Roque Grill is known for its grilled meats and dry-aged steaks. We even have a customised dry-ageing fridge in the restaurant!
At Do.main Deli & Bistrot, we follow the same belief and mindset, bringing people together with quality French cuisine, using quality products. We have a wide range of viennoiserie that we freshly bake in-house everyday, from chocolate croissants, apple turnovers, Danish pastries and also hearty French food such as our signature rotisserie chicken, beef wellington and Alsatian tarte flambée.
How did you feel when Bar-Roque Grill was awarded the Bib Gourmand in 2017 and again in 2018?
I felt amazing and really proud. It’s a huge recognition of the effort that we put in every day at Bar-Roque, to create quality comfort food and a warm, homely feeling for our guests – all at affordable prices. In 2018, it was an even greater feeling of happiness as we are the only European restaurant in Singapore to have maintained their Bib Gourmand.
Thank you very much, Stephane!