French chef Julien Royer has left his head chef post at Jaan at Swissotel The Stamford and will be setting up a fine-dining restaurant with The Lo & Behold Group.The 32-year-old will not say where the 40-seat restaurant will be located, citing a confidentiality agreement.
However, it is an open secret in the food scene here: the restaurant is at the National Gallery Singapore, located at the old City Hall and Supreme Court buildings.
It will open in November and serve lunch and dinner six days a week. His modern French food will be produce-driven, with ingredients sourced from the farmers he has worked with for some years. A business lunch is expected to cost $50 to $60 and dinner is estimated at $250 a person.
The chef, who comes from a family of farmers in Auvergne, France, and who joined Jaan in 2011, says: "It's time to move on. It's not good for a chef to be in a comfort zone."
Construction on the restaurant, whose name he declines to give, will start in the next few weeks and will cost at least seven figures.The design will be done by a London-based firm called Universal Design Studio, whose projects include the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch; the Hardy Amies flagship store in Savile Row; One Leicester Street, a boutique hotel and restaurant in London, and Torvehallerne market in Copenhagen.
Royer says of his new place: "It will be a fine- dining restaurant but we want diners to feel warm and comfortable, without the stiffness."
He will be chef-patron. His partner, The Lo & Behold Group, runs restaurants such as The Black Swan in Cecil Street, The White Rabbit in Harding Road, Overeasy at One Fullerton and the Extra Virgin Pizza chain, among others.
Mr Wee Teng Wen, 34, the group's managing partner, says of Royer: "Very simply, I love his cooking, his food. And speaking to him, what I really responded to was how he manages his people and motivates his team.
"His technical skills, his passion for what he puts on the plate and his approach to leadership make him well placed to make his mark on the dining scene here."
Royer says that mutual friends introduced them and they started out discussing the food scene here. Finding that they were like-minded, they started talking about opening a restaurant in 2014.
Asked why he is opening a fine-dining one when casual restaurants are proliferating in the food capitals of the world, Mr Wee says: "I think fine dining will always have a place in the market. It's not for the faint-hearted, it is dependent on talent."
Royer puts it another way: "There are so many casual restaurants opening in Singapore. But at the end of the day, depending on your wallet, once a week, once a month or once a year, you want to indulge in something special. So I do believe there is still room for fine dining."
Before coming to Singapore, he had worked with French chefs such as Michel Bras in hotel-restaurant Laguiole, Bernard Andrieux, a member of the prestigious chefs' association Maitres Cuisiniers de France, and in Jean Georges Vongerichten's restaurants Lagoon and TePahu at The St Regis Bora Bora Resort. He was at The St Regis Singapore's Brasserie Les Saveurs before joining Jaan.
During his time at Jaan, the chef, who is married, was named Rising Chef Of The Year at the World Gourmet Summit's Awards of Excellence in 2012. In 2014, at the same awards, he took the Chef Of The Year award and Jaan was named Restaurant Of The Year.
The restaurant also placed 11 on this year's list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, announced in March, and was 74 on the World's 50 Best subsidiary list of 51st to 100th restaurants, announced in May.
Royer's former sous chef, Briton Kirk Westaway, 29, will be the chef de cuisine at Jaan.