If you have walked along the narrow roadside pavement along Scotts Road, chances are that you might have come upon Bistro du Vin. This quintessentially French bistro veers away from the idea that French fare equals fine dining. Rather, home-style cooking that is reminiscent of grand-mère‘s is this bistro’s hallmark. And heading this restaurant is Group Executive Chef Laurent Brouard from Paris.
In hopes of learning more about Chef Laurent and why he cooks up home-cooked style, French food in his kitchen, we paid him a visit.
Drawing inspiration from his grandfather
Upon meeting him, we were surprised that he first ventured into the world of F&B about 32 years ago. This meant that he was just 14 years old when he began.
Asked about what set him on this culinary path at such a young age, he reveals: “My inspiration to become a chef was from my grandfather. He was a butcher and had his butchery shop in Paris.” As a child, Chef Laurent was close to his grandfather and spent much of his time after school, if not all, in his grandfather’s charcuterie (or what Chef affectionately referred to as his grandfather’s own ‘laboratory’).
“It gave me some sense of what I wanted to do,” he continues. When he got older, he enrolled in the Ecole Hoteliere de Paris and officially began his culinary education.
Bringing French comfort food to Singapore
Beyond these moments with his grandfather, Chef Laurent also fondly remembers the home-cooked meals that he used to enjoy with his family. From his aunts to uncles, his grandparents to his mom, all of his family knew how to prepare the ultimate French comfort food—bœuf bourguignon, or beef burgundy.
“This, I will say, is a dish I’ve eaten from I was 5 years old until I left France,” he shares.
At Bistro du Vin, Chef serves up his rendition of his family’s comfort food, the Joue de bœuf braisé ($38). Wine-marinated beef cheek is quickly seared on the pan. Chef then continues to cook the already-tender beef in the oven for 3 to 4 hours. Thereafter, it is served with creamy mashed potatoes, together with a garnish of mushrooms, bacon, and carrots. What is remarkable is that this dish is made with simple, everyday ingredients. To us, the depth of flavours that were contained in this pot of comforting, heartfelt fare only further attests to Chef’s skills.
“What could go wrong?”, he asks cheekily. Nothing, because one bite led to another and before long, we had emptied the stew pot.
Capturing the essence of the Parisian bistro at Bistro du Vin
“Each dish is comfort food,” Chef says as he explains the typical offerings on a bistro’s menu. These casual eateries that line every sidewalk in Paris serve up affordable meals for the everyday man, in the fashion of home-cooked food whipped up by mom and grandma.
Even till today, whenever he returns to Paris, Chef finds himself captivated by the selection of comfort fare in these quaint restaurants.
When it comes to capturing the essence of the Parisian bistro, the interior decor is just as important as the food on the table. Chef shares that Bistro du Vin’s sofas are a common sight in any French bistro in Paris or Lyon. So are the classic marble tables, bistro chairs, and floor tiles. Dining in this cozy, dimly-lit space with warm lights—well, it’s easy to think that we’re in France.
Sharing his knowledge as a mentor
Chef Laurent’s lifelong passion for cooking has underpinned his entire career, combined with his wish to share his craft. Working with a team of Singaporeans in the kitchen, Chef Laurent tells us that it is his goal to be a good mentor every day. “I think it’s really the [sharing] of the knowledge which is really important for me.”
This philosophy extends beyond his colleagues or apprentices, but to his customers as well. He elaborates: “I’m the kind of chef who goes out in the room and talks to the customers.” So, if you spot Chef Laurent when you’re dining at Bistro du Vin, it’s your chance to strike up a conversation with him.
Nearing the last minutes of our interview, we asked Chef about what anchored him throughout this journey. He says:
I’m a lucky chef. When I go to work, I go to work and [pursue] my passion.
Group Executive Chef, Laurent Brouard, of Bistro du Vin
With a journey that all began from his family’s love, and with the dishes that he cooks from his heart, I reckon that there’s nothing more sincere than Chef Laurent’s food.