In conversation with Guillaume Galliot
A brief history in time
It was 2017, when Four Seasons Hong Kong started a new chapter with a renowned French chef Guillaume Galliot, who by then has acquired rich expertise within some top dining destinations such as 3* Jardin des Sens in Montpellier, Raffles Hotel and his own restaurant 2* The Tasting Room.
Originally from a picturesque wine region of Loire Valley, he found his way to Asia at a young age, and at 23 became the youngest sous chef in the history of the iconic Raffles Hotel. He later received 2* Michelin stars and maintained them for two years at his own restaurant of a modern French fine dining “The Tasting Room by Galliot” in Macau.
Recently, chef has confirmed his 3 star status, setting a benchmark of modern french cooking in Chinese megapolis. Combining two diverse cultures on a plate with impeccable french techniques and Asian motifs that have surely have become native to him.
We met in the hall of Suvretta House hotel, on a morning after the night of Julius Bär opening at Kulm Hotel. All set, with black coffee and orange freshly squeezed juice, in a bright morning sun, chef Galliot starts with sharing some fun stories on working with twins at “Jardin des Sens”; naturally the famous Russian Twins of Twins Garden (Moscow, Russia) also come up.
Over enchanting conversation, chef Guillaume tells us about his favorite humble dish and we are drawn into the details of french fine dining in Hong Kong.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
On French cuisine in Asia
While bring traditional classical French cuisine to Asia, do you adapt it to the local taste?
G.G.: I use all classical French techniques, not adapting much, as after living in Asia for 14 year my palette has naturally become a bit more Asian—in this regard I know what locals will appreciate. I keep it French and don’t go too extreme with adapting—I let it come naturally.
On signature dishes
Meanwhile, one of your a signature dishes is Crab Laksa (with confit eggs, leeks, coriander, and hazelnut prim)—which is quite a mix of cuisines!
G.G.: I travel a lot and generally like to bring a mix of experiences into my cooking.
Original laksa – is a humble Singaporean dish. I enjoy eating it, so I especially created a gourmet variation of it for the Michelin guide dinner.
One night my sous chef and I went out to eat Laksa, and while having it, an idea to make a special dish out of it hit us. We imagined using laksa gravy sauce as a base and adding crab. It took us one month to elaborate and perfect the details of the recipe.
However, at present moment the signature dish In the restaurant is “beef-oyster tartare and caviar”—confesses Chef Guillaume.
What is the dish you proud of?
G.G.: Laksa. It's inspired by lots of my travels to Singapore and perfectly combines two cultures. It looks simple but it holds a lot of techniques. I don’t overpower the product with spices and always let the ingredient shine following the classic French cuisine path.
In French cooking you have the flavor of all the ingredients, in traditional laksa you don’t usually feel the shrimp inside under the power of spices. Mine is made with crab and has the flavor shining. If you cover its taste in the dish - you lose.
On what goes on behind closed doors
Coming back to the experience you had with your own restaurant (prim. “The Tasting Room”): what are differences between being a chef in your own restaurant and inside of a hotel?
G.G.: When you're a chef you oversee everything, you act as an owner, chef, HR manager, everything, so you have less time to focus on cooking.
At Four Seasons I have this time to fully dedicate to my food, to develop my sauce, which is the most important thing for me. Big structures work better for me.
How do you manage to motivate your diverse team into smooth, high quality performance?
G.G.: It’s a strength and comfort for me to work with a diverse team. Naturally these young people want to learn more, so they strive for knowledge—it’s the best motivation that makes people ready to take challenges. Most of them already knew me and wanted to join my team and to achieve a star.
At a young age around 16 to 24 I got a chance to explore and experiment and it is crucial to have time to find your style without pressure of media and other influence, I started “playing” when I was in Beijing where the food scene wasn’t that strong, so I got time to find my own distinct cooking style and at 25 I already got the position as a chef.
On events and rankings
New names and events that interest you currently?
G.G.: South American cuisine—I heard a lot about it and now I want to dedicate time to try it. I’m making the time to go to Mexico at end of January.
What is your attitude towards rankings, such as “50 Best Restaurants” and “Michelin guide”?
G.G.: The process of achieving 3 stars is a stress, but a good one. After all, we have a long tradition and since the age of 15 it was a dream of mine to have 3 Michelin stars.
On future trends in food
What do you think are the future trends in food?
G.G.: Direction to further sustainability and reducing the waste. In Four Seasons HK we have system called “well feeling” and on my menu, we show all the provenance of the product, which is 80% of my menu; we also have local farmers working with us.
Beyond that, hotel donates excess food to a non-profit Foodlink to provide meals to those in need and returns excess food waste to the ecosystem through agricultural feed.
On favourite dining destination in Paris
G.G.: I enjoy eating out in bistro a lot, so I suggest:
Restaurant L’assiette—a classic Parisian style with wood tables and a chef shouting from the kitchen.
Tomy & Co—latest version of French bistro; trendy and technical.
What motivates you and what are the challenges?
G.G.: I’m still very young and so is my team, so we are lucky. The goal is now to maintain the success and the level of professionalism.
What do you cook at home?
G.G.: Me and my wife usually go out, and I like to be served to be honest, to have this time to relax and talk. But I cook a lot when I’m in France with my mom, she has a big kitchen and all the tools
Running out of time, I’m taking a chance to ask chef Guillaume one last question, about the favorite wine. Being from Loire Valley he naturally calls Vouvray - one of the best known wine regions of the Loire Valley. The he recalls a family celebration, mentioning a special bottle of Vouvray dated from 1954.
Only briefly touch the topic of how beautifully this wine ages, we parted with anticipation of the gourmet dinner that was held the same day, as a part of the carefully curated St Moritz Gourmet Festival program.
Gustatorial thanks St. Moritz Gourmet Festival for the opportunity for this interview.
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