CRUSH CHATS TO Frederic Faucheaux
Executive Chef of Ku Dé Ta at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
We gather you are a classically French trained chef, who has lived in SA and now works in Singapore, how did this transpire? Tell us a bit about your background
I did all my trainee years in France; learnt the fundamental basics of culinary cooking and French cuisine.
I moved to the UK when a recruitment agent offered me a job in Manchester, during that time I learnt valuable life lessons and I also learnt the language of ‘Shakespeare’. I had arrived in the UK not knowing a word of English, but I was hungry for knowledge and grabbed every opportunity I could, and I started to move up on the culinary ladder.
While in London I met my future wife who was from South Africa and we decided to move in the direction of Africa. I moved firstly to Zambia with Sun International, here I learnt how to cook with limited local resources and to improvise while still maintaining a world-class standard. From there we moved to Cape Town and it was here that I was appointed Head Chef at Tank Restaurant in the Cape Quarter, and then went on to open Geisha Wok and Noodle Bar in Mouille Point. I got to know the city and the suppliers, and this proved valuable when the One & Only called to offer me a position at Nobu restaurant. I stepped down as Head Chef and at first took on the position as Executive Sous Chef, as it was a foot in the door. I could not refuse to work for one of my long time culinary hero’s – Nobuyuki Matsuhisa. It was only after almost two years, that I took on the role as Executive Chef of Nobu Cape Town.
Pan-Asian is quite a departure from the French style of cooking, has it always interested you?
My love of Asian food started when I was in London, at the time there were Sushi bars were opening on every corner and I think the bug start here. My main interest though is Japanese food – it is so fresh and simple, but also complex. The main ingredient must speak for itself, and not be covered up with many ingredients. I believe Japanese cuisine is one of the best in the world; there are more 3-star awarded Michelin restaurants in Tokyo, than any other city in the world.
What is it about Pan-Asian food that you find intriguing, what made you pursue this style?
The final beauty of each dish and the fact that the combination of every ingredient you use can change the entire taste. It is also vital that you use only the freshest produce, the dishes are simple and the ingredients must speak for themselves. The goal is to enhance what nature has already provided for us.
Does your classical French training influence your style now?
I would not say influence, but more likely elevates it. Just as an artist will use all his colours on his palette, I try to find a balance of all my experience, to provide the harmony that Asian cuisine has.
This issue we are talking art – do you believe that food is art on a plate?
100%! Most customers and critics will rate you on the food presentation first. You eat with your eyes, that’s why simplicity is very important – don’t cover your food. Play simple, don’t overcomplicate.
The style of food you serve is plated beautifully, what inspires you and these designs?
I am in love with fresh food markets, using the freshest and best quality produce as far as possible. After that it’s just about experimenting and keeping up with world trends, putting your personal signature to it and still keeping it simple.
If you could choose anyone, alive or dead, to cook a meal for now, who would it be?
It would be my parents. They were very shocked when I told them I was leaving for the UK to work; they could not understand why I should need to work abroad. I can still see my mum’s face the day I told her I was leaving. Now I feel I can show them why I move around the world, and how I have grown. The last time they ate my food (other than home-cooked meals in my mothers kitchen on holiday) was almost 20 years ago, when I was training at a local restaurant in our neighbouring village.
What would you cook for them?
I would spoil them with a wonderful product they love and know – pan-fried foie gras and sautéed scallops, but also introduce some of my favourites – roasted black cod and grilled Wagyu with a Japanese-French twist.
If someone could have given you a valuable piece of advice about your career when you started out, what would it have been?
Put 100% commitment into what you do. But also, in our business there is a lot of arrogance – a restaurant cannot run with one man alone. Often there is no harmony between front of house and back of house; one thinks their role is more important than the other. Always remember that one cannot function without the other, no man is an island.
Do you plan to return to SA and will we see you cooking in Cape Town again?
Yes absolutely, one day I will be back, but not at the present time – I still need to explore and see the world, my main focus at the moment is Asia and Asian cuisine.