Chef Sylvain Royer, the GM and chef de cuisine at R&B Lab, is flying high at the moment, having recently won the coveted Maître Cuisinier de France award. We spoke to him about his accomplishments and vision for the futuue:
TD: What was your background before you came to R&B Lab? How does that help you in your role?
SR: I was born and grew up in the food sector with a father being a former charcutier. From my early age, it was obvious I would also pursue a career in the F&B industry to follow in the footsteps of my father.
I decided for a start to learn cooking from gastronomy masters and Michelin-starred chefs by apprenticing with them, and then worked at Michelin-starred establishments to gain further experience.
“In the APAC region… the industry was the most competitive and constantly evolving”
My next career move was to acquire international exposure; therefore I joined some key players of international five-star hotel chains and based myself in the APAC region, where I found the food and beverage industry was the most competitive and constantly evolving.
From my experience above, I acquired strong roots and bases in respect to product sourcing, quality of the produce, how to understand and deliver according to guests expectations, hotel guests and market demand. These roots are what I always go back to, even to this day, when working for Scarlett in Bangkok and Hong Kong or when we opened Ginett in Singapore and Babett in Yangon.
Most recently I have been awarded Maître Cuisinier de France, a high distinction from the French association Master Chefs of France (not the TV show of course!) created in 1951. The members’ mission is to serve the art and tradition of French cuisine while expanding its influence and providing for its future, through a careful selection of the best products, striving for creativity and perfection while acting as an ambassador of the association.
I am very proud to have received such recognition as I have been indeed striving to preserve and expand the French culinary art at the restaurants of the group, since I joined R&B Lab in 2011.
TD: What challenges have you overcome in your career and how?
SR: The most challenging part of my career was in the human resource aspect: to identify, hire, train and grow a team of passionate people, in the kitchens and operations teams.
It may sound odd but I would never have thought when I started my career that my biggest challenge would be in sharing my experience, motivating and inspiring youngsters who were ushered into a rather tough and harsh environment and have them perform at their best.
From my experiences in kitchen, I acquired a skill set including technical expertise, but also patience and resilience, which have definitely come into play when I formed and built my teams. I also had to develop new skills and learn to be a good listener, become a mentor and a coach.
I am so proud today to have done all of this, to see youngsters I trained from scratch have a successful professional career in the industry and grow within the group or even later outside.
For example, a young man started with R&B Lab for the opening of our Scarlett restaurant in Hong Kong as restaurant manager. He was promoted to operations manager at our larger venue Scarlett in Bangkok then moved to oversee two of our newly opened restaurants in Singapore, Ginett and 25 Degrees. He did brilliantly and the success of the restaurants was without doubt due to his passion, hard work and dedication.
TD: What has changed the most during your time in the industry? How do you and your company stay ahead of the curve?
SR: Maybe this will show that I am getting old! (laughs) 20 years ago, we used to travel by car from a city to another within the same country; today we travel greater distances in shorter time. The airlines are opening more and more routes; customers have more options and cheaper costs.
“We have to look at the whole picture – which is now a global one”
Nowadays, people get to experience so many destinations, countries and cities, and by extension various restaurants and bars, and they can now compare, review, share tips easily.
Within the restaurants and bars industry, we have to look at the whole picture – which is now a global one – and constantly innovate, create and be on the move. R&B Lab is always looking at developing the brand and new concepts within or outside Asia.
For anyone looking to follow a similar career path to yours, what advice would you give them? What should they include in any job application?
While each person has a different experience to my own, I believe it is important to learn from experienced chefs in order to gain basic kitchen skill sets from the start – these are extremely important as they will be used and honed during your whole career.
However, so are patience in learning and open-mindedness, even more so when aiming for an international career.
“Knowledge: absorbing it, then implementing and experimenting”
It is also paramount that one should not try to grow too fast. When gaining knowledge, there is a whole process of absorbing it, then implementing and experimenting; interpret and adapt it then make it your own – all this will take more or less time from one person to another.
I would strongly advise anyone to train and be an apprentice at as varied establishments as possible to achieve this but also to learn how to approach guests as well as their expectations. In my humble opinion, there is no shortcut or magic recipe, but there is definitely hard work, the fire inside that makes one work with passion and dedication to the job, and respect of our ‘métier’.
What is your personal goal for the product for the next six months and then two years? How will you get there?
I am now focusing on keeping our current restaurants and products at their best and striving to get better recognition through events and partnerships, while looking at developing new concepts that could fit tomorrow’s traveller’s expectations.
Scarlett is in eternal mutation to keep up with the vibe and expectations throughout the years – and sometimes even anticipate them.
Last year, we launched a charcoal grill as well as a new dry-aging method to mature our beef. This was a resounding success with the media and our clientele in Bangkok, Singapore and Yangon.
Moving forward, developing independent restaurants is definitely in our agenda, all the while being mindful of sustainability, as are new health-focused concept restaurants.
Visit randblab.com for more information and restaurant reservations, including at Scarlett Bangkok and Hong Kong, Ginett Singapore, Babett Yangon, Benjamin Cooper San Francisco and The Clubhouse Shenzen.