Asked to name his favourite dish from the menu, Chef Stroobant says the King Crab dish is it. “With King Crab, the sauce is the same as the one we serve in Singapore with turmeric foam, lemongrass and corn. But in KL we serve King Crab while in Singapore its Hokkaido Hairy Crab.”
When talking about how his cooking style has changed and evolved over the years, Chef Stroobant said. “Alain Passard of L’Arpège told me when I was young that a chef would only find his own way when he is around 50 years old because that’s when he stops absorbing influencing from everybody and find his own style. I didn’t believe it then, but I do now. It has taken me 30 years to get to know who I am and what my style of cooking is.”
Chef Stroobant also mentioned that he had simplified his cooking as he has gained more experience. “Maybe ten years ago I would have six or seven elements on a plate, some marinated and some infused, and that would add up to about 15 flavours on a plate,” he says.
“Today I go with the best ingredients I can find and if it’s the best why would I want to change it, so I help it express itself and bring it to its very best without having to add anything to it.”
He says most of his dishes today only have a maximum three to four ingredients which just ‘lift’ the natural flavours of the main ingredient. Quoting his favourite dish on the menu, the King Crab only has turmeric and cucumber.
Interestingly, while being surrounded by all kinds of food, Chef Stroobant has chosen to limit his own dietary intake. He is a vegetarian and also a yogi, practising for an hour every morning as well as teaching. Asked why he decided on this restrictive dietary choice, he replies: “I was a chef prior to becoming a vegetarian, so I do taste my meat dishes,” adding that he doesn’t have to taste every single piece of meat leaving his kitchen.
The reason why Chef Stroobant decided to become vegetarian along with cutting down on his alcoholic intake (he doesn’t drink hard liquor but may indulge in a glass of wine only occasionally) was because of a health issue. “I had very high cholesterol which is a genetic issue,” he reveals, saying that he has been a vegetarian for the last ten years already. “I still eat sashimi and sushi as I love Japanese food, but I have all but given up red meat, lobster, prawns, squid and scallops.”
Becoming a vegetarian, however, has had an added bonus for Chef Stroobant. “My palate is purified, and my taste buds are sharpened. I’m more sensitive to salt and use less of it. I now prefer to use natural flavours like mushrooms rather than add sodium or nitrates to a dish.”
In keeping with his clean and zen lifestyle, Chef Stroobant also meditates for an hour every night. “I cannot begin to tell you how meditation has changed my life. It’s extremely difficult and stressful working in a kitchen. To keep you cool in the heat of a kitchen is a challenge. Anything can happen. When something goes wrong, I can keep cool-headed and take a step back and decide that is the next course of action in a calm manner.”
For further information about Saint Pierre Kuala Lumpur and their four new festive menus, please visit www.saintpierre.com.my.
Read more interviews conducted by the editorial team in our dedicated section here.