Flying the French Food Flag

ISSUE #57 – Interview with Philippe Pau, Director, Bistro du Vin

Philippe Pau arrived in Singapore in January 1997. He has been involved in French cuisine through leading positions for a wide range of food establishments. He received the Best Restaurant Manager title at the Singapore World Gourmet Summit Awards of Excellence in 2001, 2004, and 2011. He has had the privilege of serving Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his family, meeting and serving Prince Albert II of Monaco, and catering for numerous Ambassadors and celebrities. He has also been part of countless celebrations, including many involving French companies like Bachy Soletanche and Dragages amongst others.

Bistro-Du-Vin

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO SETTLE IN SINGAPORE? WHEN DID YOU ARRIVE?

Since young I was always attracted by Asia: some of my older family members were posted in what was called Indochina as part of the then “Colonial Army” and I remember hearing their stories, looking at old photographs, sampling dishes heavily influenced by Asian flavours. After the departure of the US from Vietnam, France welcomed a lot of refugees. My mother was involved in a centre and we became close friend with a few families who later invited us to their homes where they shared with us authentic Vietnamese dishes as well as stories and memories from their home country. All this created a desire for me to live in the region.

I was offered job at the Duxton Hotel in charge of L’Aigle d’Or Restaurant in January 1997 after having lived and worked in France, Switzerland, England, Dubai, and the Seychelles.

WHAT ARE THE VARIOUS FRENCH ESTABLISHMENTS THAT YOU HAVE WORKED AT?

Over the last 18 years, I’ve worked in quite a few establishments including L’Aigle d’Or at Duxton Hotel, Saint Pierre in Central Mall, Coq & Bull at Greenwood Avenue, Absinthe Restaurant at Bukit Pasoh Road, and Bistro du Vin and Au Jardin.

I also set up the Les Amis Catering department and ran it for over three years, offering mainly French food.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, many French restaurants in hotels closed down and more stand-alone restaurants opened

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE EVOLUTION OF THE FRENCH F&B LANDSCAPE IN THE LAST 20 YEARS?

When I first arrived here, most French restaurants were still based within hotels, with a few exceptions. These included Les Amis, which opened in 1994 and was the first stand-alone French fi ne dining establishment. Another was the first French hawker stand to serve traditional French cuisine, which was set up by Chef Bernard Sautereau in Tanjong Pagar before he opened La Cascade in Ang Siang Hill.

Other early names include Le Saxophone in Cuppage Terrace, Vis-à-Vis opened by Jeremy Choo in 1992, The Raffles Grill, Latour at the Shangri-La Hotel, Maxim’s at the Regent Hotel, La Brasserie at the Marco Polo Restaurant and L’Aigle d’Or at the Duxton Hotel – the only Relais & Chateau in Southeast Asia at the time.

Somehow in the late 1990s and early 2000s, many French restaurants in hotels closed down in favour of more casual concepts and, at the same time, more stand-alone restaurants opened: among others, Saint Pierre, Saint Julien, Gunther, Salut restaurant, and Petit Salut all offered a very high quality of food in a more convivial and contemporary setting.

Then came the French bistros with L’Angelus in Club Street and The French Stall (now ‘TFS’) as two of the precursors, followed over the last few years by a flurry of openings: Bistro du Sommelier, Bistro du Vin, Brasserie Gavroche, Balzac Brasserie, Taratata Bistro, Maison Fatien, l’Entrecote and many others.

Today, Singaporeans see that French food is not just for the lucky few. True French food is about conviviality, comfort, generosity, all packed with flavours. Just as Italian food has succeeded in being accepted and enjoyed by pretty much every country, French food is slowly gaining market shares and gaining more supporters. Even students now support French food through fusion restaurants like Saveur, while the heartlanders often visit restaurants like Poulet.

 

Interview published in the FOCUS Magazine “SG50” – May 2015