An interview with a French Chef in Brunei

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Photography by Riley Khoo

 

Years ago the kitchen was a place that was hidden behind closed doors. It was just a place for working which was equipped with the bare essentials. But today, more people are opting for the open concept kitchen which allows you to cook, as well as to easily communicate and connect with whatever’s happening in the heart of your home. However, what you are looking at in this picture is no ordinary open concept kitchen. This is his domain. It is where he creates, prepares and perfects. From making his own creamy butter to preparing perfectly tender, flavourful lobster – this gentleman takes great pride in everything he creates.

Passionate, patient and persistent – these are the words that describe Executive Chef Frederic Gardien. Originally from Poitou Charente in France, Frederic and his family have been living in Brunei for the past 3 years. One of four Executive Chefs in this country, he recently joined some of the greatest chefs in the world in the “Goût de France” as they celebrated the excellence of French cuisine. “Goût de France or Good France is based on the concept that on the same evening, throughout the world, 1,300 chefs have to prepare a ‘French-style’ menu which must include six traditional courses that highlight their own culinary traditions and cultures. In Brunei, Chef Frederic was asked to organise and prepare an exquisite array of dishes for 21 ambassadors plus representatives from other major companies. Frederic thrives on a challenge and will go to any lengths to make sure that his dishes are finished to perfection. We had the privilege of having a quick chat with him just before the Goût de France, to find out more about his love for cooking.

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How long have you been a chef and why did you choose this profession?
I have been a chef for 35 years. And I learnt about cooking under the guidance of my grandparents and my father, they were all involved in cooking. So I had a passion for this from a very young age.

Describe your style of cooking in 1 word.
Authentic.

Why do you like cooking? What’s your speciality?
I love cooking for people, I like to see them appreciate and enjoy my food. I especially like cooking meat (veal), fish and pastry.

In terms of cooking, who has inspired you?
As I said before, my grandparents and my father were all cooks, so I learnt the traditional recipes and skills from them. I have also worked with many great chefs like Joe Robuchon, Jean DeLaveine, Michel Blanchet and Catherine Duviau.

What design of kitchen do you prefer?
In France the kitchen is truly the heart of the home. So I like an open plan kitchen, one which allows me to cook and also to interact with my family and friends.

What’s the one thing in your kitchen that you wouldn’t live without?
My knives.

What’s the most memorable dish you’ve ever cooked?
Caviar. I caught the sturgeon myself and made the caviar from scratch!

When you want to make a quick easy meal what do you make?
Hachis Parmentier. This is a dish made from mashed potato and diced meat, it is easy to make and delicious.

What advice do you have for those who are interested in cooking as a career?
Most importantly you must see cooking as more than a job, it must be your vocation because when you first start off in this industry the salary is not much. So you must do it because you love to cook. You must also be very energetic as chefs have very long days. They must be up very early to get the freshest produce and then it’s non-stop preparation and cooking. I would advise anyone who is interested in this profession to also have patience, to be determined and to be bold when it comes to experimenting with food.

Which is your favourite food in Brunei?
I enjoy the food from this region but i especially like Mango Fish and Nasi Goreng.

And finally, if you were not a chef, what would you be?
I would do some kind of manual job or mechanical job


This article was published in the April 2015 issue of Inspire Living Magazine. Download it here!

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