“I think it’s about sacrificing. I don’t see my family very much and I’ve got young kids and I barely have a day off. I work easily 15 hours a day almost every single day," says Emmanuel Stroobant, founder and chef behind Singapore-based Emmanuel Stroobant Group.
“Sometimes I wonder why am I still doing this," he says jokingly. "But when you have a lot of passion for what you do, you’ll do it well,” says the 50-year-old chef.
Born and bred in Belgium, Stroobant started his career in the kitchen at age 16, cleaning dishes in one of the best restaurants in the country.Within a few years, he gathered invaluable experiences in several Michelin starred restaurants, and by age 23, he opened his first restaurant in his hometown Liege.
We always think that chefs are just cooks but chefs are leaders too and it's about leading a team to success
Stroobant's culinary journey took him through the kitchens of various fine dining restaurants in Australia and Kuala Lumpur, where he gained professional culinary skills and shaped his gastronomy style. Finally in 1999, the chef settled down in Singapore with his wife and founded the Saint Pierre in December 2000.
It was through Saint Pierre, offering French-inspired signature dishes with a touch of Asian flair, that chef-owner obtained one-Michelin star.
“It takes determination and focus but I didn’t earn it alone, it was through teamwork. We always think that chefs are just cooks but chefs are leaders too and it's about leading a team to success. Making sure whatever the team execute with passion, interests and everything is well taken care off," Stroobant says.
Elevate The Quality of Ingredients
Besides standing on his feet for long hours and working under constant pressure to deliver perfectly crafted dishes, Stroobant believes that indulging in good quality ingredients is what paved his way to Michelin status.
“It's about bringing the right ingredients. Yes, Malaysia has good local ingredients but we don’t have great beef. If you want great beef, you’ve got to import them from Japan, U.S. or Australia.”
We need to elevate it a little by bringing in some foreign ingredients to raise the overall food quality
“We need to elevate it a little by bringing in some foreign ingredients to raise the overall food quality. It’s not that our local ingredients are not good but we are limited to local food with local ingredients.”
When asked about his leadership style, the disciplined yet relaxed nature of Stroobant gave the impression he doesn’t lead the kitchen with notorious temper chefs are usually famous for.
“I try to inspire people, I’m not a Gordon Ramsay at all. I motivate them to achieve something that they will not achieve if they were not pushed to achieve it.”
“We all have talent that is hidden. We all need someone to see the potential - Like a little spark in someone, and then create a big flame. Sometimes you just need a tiny touch of talent that have the potential to create great fire.”
The Importance of Identifying Food Trends
Stroobant is no stranger to the limelight, winning several awards throughout his culinary career, appeared on several TV shows and has authored a cookbook called ‘Cuisine Unplugged’.
Currently on tour with Savour Singapore - an annual international food festival, the celebrity chef has no intention of slowing down anytime soon.
“I don’t want to stop. I think there’s still a lot of things to needs to be taught and learnt from me. I think I’m at the stage where I can start sharing the experiences I have acquired with aspiring chefs. The culinary career you create is an endless journey," he adds.