Pairing buah keluak with Iberico pork

Do not be deceived by his surname - French chef Mathieu Escoffier, 30, is not related to the late, great French chef Auguste Escoffier.

Still, the younger Escoffier has robust roots in cooking as his family has always been in the restaurant business.

For the past 20 years, his parents have been running French bistro Ma Cuisine in his hometown of Beaune. His older brother and uncle also run their own bistros in Bordeaux and Burgundy respectively.

But it is his late maternal grandfather, who used to run the one- Michelin-starred restaurant L'ermitage Corton, whom he regards as his mentor.

He says: "He was such an inspiration for me and by the age of 14, I knew that I wanted to be a chef. It's 100 per cent due to him that I carry on cooking every day."

During his final year of catering school, Escoffier went to work at the eponymous three-Michelin- starred restaurant of Regis Marcon for six months.

He says: "I discovered gastronomy at a high level. But the chef remained humble and he knew how to push people in a good way."

Since then, he has worked at various French establishments such as Maison Lameloise, Plaza Athenee and Daniel Boulud - all with three Michelin stars. Before coming to Singapore, he was executive sous chef at Joel Robuchon a la Grand Maison in Bordeaux last year.

Instead of continuing to work in Michelin-starred restaurants, he chose to look for a "new challenge".

Through a mutual friend, he was put in touch with Saint Pierre's chef-owner Emmanuel Stroobant.

Other brands here under the group include two-Michelin- starred Japanese restaurant Shoukouwa, as well as more casual restaurants such as Sque Rotisserie & Alehouse, Brussels Sprouts and Picotin Express.

Stroobant remains very much involved with menu planning at Saint Pierre.

With Escoffier, he launched a new seasonal menu last Thursday. Lunch is priced from $58++ for a three-course meal, while dinner is priced from $148++ (four-course) to $228++ (eight-course). Vegetarian and children's menus are also available.

New dishes include a starter of kinmedai sashimi with kombu-ponzu gel, yuzu zest, wasabi, lemon oil and oscietra caviar; and bouillabaisse of rock fish consomme with saffron, sea urchin rouille (sauce), barbecued king prawn and red mullet.

Photo: The Straits Times

Escoffier has settled so nicely in Singapore that he is even showcasing buah keluak with 12-hour sous vide Iberico pork (above).

He says: "The texture of buah keluak is really new to me, almost like black garlic. At first, the bitter chocolate taste sets in, followed by the earthy notes.

"I made a farce (stuffing) to fill up the buah keluak shell and added some pulled pork, diced foie gras, oven-baked pear brunoise and parsley. The combination of the different hints of flavours from each ingredient balances the taste of the buah keluak very well."

On how the Michelin Guide is influencing the Singapore food scene, he says: "I know how it is good for the city, the restaurant scene and the customers. The standard of service and food go up because everyone knows that someone will judge them."

This article was first published on October 16, 2016.
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