Chef Bruno Menard: Weaving Michelin-starred magic on the shores of Maldives
The story of the French restaurant L’Osier is inscribed on his left forearm, in the shape of three very distinctive stars; he wears them on his sleeve with pride. They represent one of his most significant accomplishments. The restaurant tucked away in Tokyo’s Ginza district was awarded the highest distinction—the three-star rating—since the first year the Michelin Guide started rating restaurants in Tokyo, Japan.
Wait! A French-born becomes a master in the culinary arts and impresses the most demanding inspectors of the much-lauded Michelin Guide? And gets away with the highest honour? Now where have I heard this story before, I wonder, as Chef Bruno Menard and I sit down for a chat at Hulhulé Island Hotel. Could it be, I think, the story of Remy—from Ratatouille, the 2007 computer-animated film by Walt Disney! No pun intended; it was and remains to be one of the best-animated films I’ve ever seen.
Chef Menard was born into a nearly a hundred-year lineage of culinary heritage; his father was a chocolatier; his grandfather, a patissier; his whole family specialises in pastries. “I started working for my father at his chocolate factory when I was just six years old. And all I ever dreamed about was becoming a chef. And at the very young age of sixteen, I was ready for my apprenticeship, but I had already mastered the basics by then,” he tells me.
By the time he was 27, he was ranked amongst the “Future Great Chefs of Tomorrow” in France, but one thing kept eluding him; the one thing that mattered the most. At the time, his father was doing some consulting work on the other side of the globe, in Japan, and the young chef was asked to come to join him. Chef Menard moved to Japan with his wife and two-year-old son in 1995, a place he would love and cherish to this day, and the reason why—some 25 years later—you can still find him in this part of the globe.
Most of his time spent in Japan was as the Executive Chef at The Ritz Carlton Osaka, after which he moved to The Ritz Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States. At his time there, the restaurant “The Dining Room” was awarded five stars by the Mobil Travel Guide and five diamonds by the American Automobile Association (AAA).
But his biggest reward was earned after, following his move back to Japan to take over the L’Osier in Tokyo. He had only one mission. And he succeeded. “It was a very rare feat. To be awarded three stars—the top rating—straightaway at the launching of the first edition of the Michelin Guide Tokyo was the greatest accomplishment. I can only say that I was at the right place at the right time,” he muses.
Chef Menard oversaw the restaurant for another three years, defending its three stars year after year, until the restaurant closed down for renovation in March 2011. Once again, at a crossroads, the chef and his wife make a decision that will change their lives. In 2013, they launched Bruno Menard Pte. Ltd.—a culinary consulting firm based in Singapore, with his wife handling all administrative tasks.
With more than 35 years of savoir-faire and expertise within the restaurant business, Bruno Menard Pte. Ltd., offers various culinary consulting services to private and corporate clients all over the world. It specialises in corporate and private catering; menu and restaurant concept development; private events; product development; cooking classes; food events and exhibitions; and everything related to the field of culinary arts.
Two years later, Chef Menard was back in the limelight, this time as a celebrity judge on the famous television show, MasterChef Asia. “The competition was huge. We had participants from over seven countries, competing for the crown. I never expected to be asked to be one of the three esteemed judges of the show. But I am glad I accepted, as it was another opportunity for me to grow, personally and as a chef,” says the decorated chef.
Chef Menard recently joined the Junon Restaurant in Hong Kong as the Food Director, and as the Executive Chief – Asia Pacific, he is also the brand ambassador for Vranken-Pommery Monopole. He is also behind the formation of the Bocuse d’Or Academy Singapore and was nominated as President of Bocuse d’Or Asia Pacific in 2016.
Recently, he was in the Maldives, weaving Michelin starred magic on the sandy shores of the top holiday destination. Earlier in September, the top chef hosted a masterclass targeting culinary arts enthusiasts and chefs in the Maldives, in partnership with Bestbuy Maldives (BBM)—one of the largest hotel suppliers in the Maldives, and the main sponsor of the Hotel Asia Exhibition and International Culinary Challenge 2019. He was a judge at the culinary competition held in 2017.
Last year, Chef Menard was here conducting roadshows and a masterclass on the globally-renowned Belgian chocolate brand Veliche™ Gourmet. “As chefs, our dishes are as good as the ingredients we use to make our dishes. If we don’t have high-quality ingredients, our end products or dishes will not be good. And I believe BBM has a selection of some of the finest products and brands in the world,” he says, sharing his thoughts on the company. He is also very excited with the prospect of holding MasterChef Maldives; something he believes will help propel real talent and some genuine cooking featuring local and traditional flavours.
His advice to budding chefs and culinary enthusiasts? “The first and last quality of a chef, or chef-enthusiast, should be curiosity. The possibilities of today are amazing. Everything is at our fingertips; recipes, cooking shows, tutorials… Chefs, like me, can share our techniques and experiences, but it is you who will use our knowledge to your benefit. So, don’t be afraid of taking on new challenges and start asking a lot of questions. Make sacrifices and commit yourself to achieve your dreams,” he adds.