Chef Bruno Oger has been to Bangkok before, but never quite like this. As he returns to the capital, presenting his illustrious chef’s table at Viu at The St. Regis, the former head of the kitchen at Le Normandie brings brand-new French creations and critical recognition from the Michelin Guide.
The legendary French chef first set his sights on cooking at the age of 12. His impressive ascent to the top of the culinary world since then has been smooth and speedy. At 21, he began to work with the renowned Georges Blanc. In 1997, his flagship restaurant, La Villa des Lys, was awarded a Michelin star, the first of many honours that would decorate his burgeoning career. Later that year, he was named Best Chef by the Gault-Millau restaurant guide.
More recently, Chef Oger has prepared the opening gala dinner at Cannes from 2012 to 2014, and his latest restaurant, La Villa Archange, Le Cannet, was bestowed with two Michelin stars for its grand haute cuisine. Now, he’s come to Bangkok for a five-day culinary special from February 24-28.
The chef took time out from his busy schedule to talk to Bangkok 101 about his cameo in the big city.
What got you started in cooking?
When I was growing up in Brittany, France, I knew I wanted to be a 3-star chef. That was always my goal — even as a boy! Georges Blanc was my idol, and I got to work with him. It was amazing. He’s like my father. I think it’s important to have someone like that in your life: the transmission of knowledge, passing it down from one to another. I learned a lot from him.
How did this collaboration come about?
Thailand is my second home. I worked here for three-and-a-half years. I have two sons that I adopted from Thailand, as well. One is 15 and the other is turning 11. I love this place. When one of the managers from the St. Regis came to my restaurant last summer and asked me to come to Bangkok, I said yes immediately.
How has the fine dining scene in Bangkok changed since you worked here?
The world is a small place. We are all so connected. I think Thai people are travelling more now than ever, and this is important. We should all share our culture, customs, and food with others.
As for the dining scene, it’s hard to say, because I’ve been gone so long. But, I mean, wow, this city is different. It’s huge! And traffic is better than it was 20 years ago.
Have you sourced any local produce for the promotion at Viu?
I was able to get some produce from the Royal Project, but most of the ingredients, like the French butter and fresh black truffle, I brought from home.
What inspired your menu?
Natural things are always my greatest inspiration. I try to pick the right produce to use at the right moment, when it’s mature and has the perfect texture and taste. For example, on the menu we have these beautiful oysters from France that are very, very fresh. I just let them shine.
It’s not the presentation — it’s the taste. That’s the most important thing. A dish has to have a strong flavour. When you bite into something, you should know exactly what you’re eating.
What are some standout dishes you are planning to serve?
Among other dishes, I’m preparing veal that we cook for 24 hours sous-vide. You can cut it with a spoon. It has so much flavour. I also have a traou mad for dessert, which means “good things.” It’s a simple delicacy from Brittany, finished with salted sherry butter and a lovely vanilla cream.
I always try to cook with a little local touch. For this menu, that’s the sea bass cooked Siam-style, with lemongrass and prawns. I work with a lot of fish. My restaurant is by the sea, after all.
What was it like preparing dinner for Hollywood celebrities like Steven Spielberg at Cannes?
All the actors, the directors, they were very respectful. Everybody in the world is happy when they sit at the table to eat! For me, I was an actor, too — like a food actor, a part of the show.
Did anything change after your restaurant earned its Michelin stars?
The day after La Villa Archange got its first two stars, we had 600 calls. We were booked wall to wall. The calls came from across the world: Singapore, Beijing, the US. When your restaurant gets Michelin stars, you speak English on the phone. Before we got those stars, it was only French.
The special set menus are priced at B2100++ for three courses, B4500++ for five courses, B5900++ for seven courses, and B6900++ for nine courses. Wine pairing is available for all menus for B2000++.