La Dame De Pic Makes Its Asian Debut At The Raffles Singapore
Despite being born into a family of chefs—some of the world’s finest to boot—French chef Anne-Sophie Pic’s journey into the professional world of gastronomy was anything but predestined or predictable—much like her progressive and ever-evolving approach to contemporary French cuisine.
Initially deterred by the long hours her family would spend in the kitchen, she decided to study business. “My father did ask me if I wanted to be a chef, but also said that it was going to be tough for a woman,” Pic tells us.
Thankfully, this did not stop her from becoming a master of her craft and one of the world’s best chefs, with 10 establishments and a total of seven Michelin stars under her belt, since she took over the family’s restaurant business in Valence, France, in 1997. It is now one of several restaurants she and her husband, David Sinapian, own and run as part of the Groupe Pic enterprise.
Her father was one of the first three chefs to helm a three-starred Michelin restaurant, an elite trio that included the country’s first woman chef to do the same. But it would be another 50 years before another French woman would equal the feat, when in 2007, Maison Pic under Anne-Sophie Pic reclaimed its three-star rating.
There was a lot of pressure in the beginning to prove herself, she shares, but having achieved so much since has left her humbled by the fact.
I already know Singapore and Asia—and you know that in my cuisine there is a lot of Asia—and I feel very comfortable with that.
Next Big Thing
The group’s latest to open—on July 5, to be exact—is the Singapore outpost of her “less formal” but no less elegant concept, La Dame De Pic, housed at the newly refurbished Raffles Singapore. The Grand Dame, as the iconic hotel is affectionally known (which is also a nice coincidence, Sinapian noted) officially reopens on August 1, but selected dining offers will begin operations earlier.
The 46-seat restaurant also marks Pic’s first foray into Asia, a continent she tells T.Dining she had long been inspired by—since her first visit in 1990 when she was still a university student. The trip brought her and her partner (Sinapian and Pic met in 1988 and tied the knot in 1993) to Singapore for a week before they headed to Japan for a few months, a country and culture that would have one of the biggest influences on her culinary style.
“We were 21 years old and at this time there was no iPhone, no Skype … so, when you arrive in Asia, you were in Asia, with no links to Europe,” shares Pic about how they were very impressed by the different cultures, and eventually fell in love with the continent.
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“I (continued to be) fascinated with Asian ingredients, so I tried to learn more about them,” she tells. “Not to do Asian cuisine, because I make French cuisine, but to understand the ingredients; it seems easy, but it isn’t.”
Her signature berlingots appetiser, for instance, features a matcha pasta parcel shaped like the French candy of the same name. The Raffles Singapore incarnation of the dish, which is intentionally different from the ones at her La Dame de Pic outlets in London and Paris, incorporates a new flavour association. This time, it is paired with an aromatic green zebra tomato consommé infused with herb of grace (also known as chou cao) and marigold, which she explains enhances the berlingots’ French cheese fondue filling.
I’m very concerned about (capturing) the spirit of Singapore because I don’t want to make only my French cuisine without caring about (the produce and flavours) available here.
— Anne-Sophie Pic
Another signature dish she has tweaked for the Singapore menu is the dessert of signature “white mille-feuille”, which features confit grapefruit, a litsea cubeba emulsion and a light cream flavoured with a touch of ginger flower.
“I’m very concerned about (capturing) the spirit of Singapore because I don’t want to make only my French cuisine without caring about (the produce and flavours) available here,” Pic clarifies. “I already know Singapore and Asia—and you know that in my cuisine there is a lot of Asia—and I feel very comfortable with that.”
A lot of effort was made to incorporate a Singapore twist to the dishes. Chef de cuisine Kevin Gatin, who has been a protégé of Anne-Sophie Pic for over eight years, spent eight months looking for the right ingredients to experiment with, which ended up filling an entire luggage. “I told him to bring me Singapore,” Pic affirms, admitting that she also gets guidance and insights from chefs based in Singapore.
It’s hard to say what percentage of local produce will be regularly featured on the menu but the 49-year-old maestro hopes to eventually be able to use more local than imported ingredients.
Naturally, quality still takes precedence, which is why she is also looking into serving a special selection of wagyu for the restaurant. “We are close to Japan, China and Malaysia but we currently don’t have contacts of quality sources … but it’s only a question of time,” she adds.
Pic is planning to visit the Singapore restaurant at least twice a year and for about a week each time, not only to work in the kitchen but also on creating new dishes, which she says could begin with a new sauce, as “sauces are the DNA of French cuisine in a certain way”, keeping in mind that diners in Singapore love strong flavours. “I like strong flavours too,” she declares.
Where else in the world would she open a restaurant, we asked. “Probably Japan,” she admits with a laugh, as the answer was obvious. “So now you know everything,” she teased.
I really think my cuisine is feminine in a certain way, because I put a lot of my intentions and feelings into my cuisine.
— Anne-Sophie Pic
Pic’s flair for unique flavours pairings, it would seem, is directly related to her passion for discovering new ingredients and flavours, complemented by a deft hand at presenting balanced and aromatic dishes that are boldly flavourful yet bright at the same time.
“I really think my cuisine is feminine in a certain way, because I put a lot of my intentions and feelings into my cuisine,” she posits. “I want to show how the ingredients come together to (create) some magic and emotion.”
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She is mindful of how consumers tend to perceive French cuisine as being lactic, because it uses a lot of butter, milk and cream. “Of course, I use some (of these) but not only these; most of the time I’m creating infusions to show that flavours are not only (about) fatness, it can also be light but strong.”
A dish of wild turbot with zucchini in different textures we got to preview last week demonstrated this approach and her matured restrain nicely. The aptly piquant broth that accompanied was lighter with the use of Granny Smith apple in place of a citrus variety, while the fragrant use of marigold and tarragon further lifted the dish and added interesting depth of flavour.
Ultimately, her dishes affirm her passion for creating experiences. “I’ve always believed and still do that cuisine is a question of taste,” Pic adds. And in her case, this involves a unique fondness for citrus, though she has admittedly grown more focused on spices in the last three years, discovering new ones and new ways to use them.
She reminds us that it is her unique combination of flavours that best expresses her personality. She admits to being extremely open to other cuisines and culinary influences, but warns of the dangers of “influences”, as many can get too caught with following what others are doing, or what’s popular, stressing the importance of creating dishes that express a unique identity.
Taking us back briefly, Pic shared a little about how she had made the decision to work in the kitchen and learn from her father, after completing her business studies. Unfortunately, he passed away about three months after her return. “That’s the reason why I’m always talking about finding my own way,” she says. It's how she learned the importance of following one’s intuition.
- Photography La Dame de Pic