Chef Richard van Oostenbrugge on Michelin stars, the fine dining scene, and his worst critic
Richard van Oostenbrugge is no stranger to the Dutch dining scene. With two Michelin stars at his acclaimed Bord'Eau restaurant (in a short span of two years, no less), van Ostenbrugge has been praised for his mastery of French cooking techniques, and his precision when it comes to pulling flavours and textures together. His famed dessert, Apple, is a humble-sounding creation — but is hardly simple in technique. The crisp, sugary granny-smith apple tart wraps around an apple sorbet core, and is encased in a delicate sugar bubble.
From now till 13 May, van Oostenbrugge will take over the kitchen at Curate at Resorts World Sentosa, at the second instalment of the Art at Curate dining series. He will be presenting a four-course lunch menu, and an eight-course dinner menu, which will showcase the best of his culinary skills. We know what you're thinking, and the answer is a resounding yes — Apple is the sweet finish on both menu options, and is set to blow your mind.
What style of cooking are you bringing to Art at Curate?
Well, I'm known for my modern French cooking style. But you'll see in the line-up here that I'm starting to shift towards a more Japanese style of thinking and techniques. You'll find a nice balance of French and Japanese flavours on this menu. To be honest, I don't give a s**t these days anymore about pretty plating and how the dishes look. I'm more interested in taste and how the flavours come together.
You have two Michelin stars under your belt, in only two years after Bord'Eau opened its doors. What do those stars mean to you?
A lot, of course. Michelin is probably the only guide out there that is important — if I didn't have those stars, I wouldn't be sitting here. It gives you opportunities to do amazing things and to present your food to different clientele. The two Michelin stars have definitely given me the confidence to experiment and to go further with my dishes.
Why did you decide to become a chef, and what was the turning point for you?
When I was 19, I was working as a dishwasher in Switzerland. I was doing an economics course at night, and dishes in the day, but I found dishes more thrilling than my studies. I loved the atmosphere in the kitchen, and being around creative people who worked around food all day. Someone then told me, "If you like it that much, why don't you become a chef?" And I thought, "What the hell, let's just do it."
What do you love and hate about fine dining?
I love the creative part of it all, and the produce you can work with. But I feel like the whole fine dining experience can be improved. That's the part I dislike at the moment — that there is so much more the industry can do to offer a subliminal experience. People are going out for a night, and it costs a lot of money. From the moment they walk in the door, to the moment they leave, it should be spectacular. There needs to always be something special happening, whether it's chatting to the chef or interacting with the service staff.
What's the most memorable — or most disastrous — encounter you've had to date in your restaurant?
When we first started at Bord'Eau, there was this one table — Table 5 — and that night, everything that could go wrong was going to go wrong. Every course came out wrong, like Murphy's Law was upon us. These people were so pissed off; I went up to them and apologised so many times. I was saying stuff like, "You're not going to believe it, we screwed up again." Well, guess what? They came again, gave us a second chance, and are now one of our most regular guests.
What's the first thing you do when you wake up?
It used to be hitting the shower, but now that I have a little girl (Bobbi, aged two), the first thing I do is pick her up and give her a big hug.
What's Bobbi's favourite dish of yours?
Oh, absolutely nothing. One time, she had to taste one of my dishes on television, and she was like, "Yuck!", in front of everyone.
Is there a dish you'd like to see on your menu but haven't perfected yet?
You know, there's always things that you try and haven't finished. It's always on the back of your mind — and you just try again the following year when the produce is in season, and refine it. That's the beauty of my job; being able to fine tune dishes and make it better. It never ends.
The second instalment of Art at Curate is on from now till 13 May at Resorts World Sentosa.
#01-231/232 Curate. 26 Sentosa Gateway. Tel: +65 6577 7288. To book a spot, call or drop an email to [email protected]