French chef Georges Blanc, whose eponymous restaurant in Vonnas, France, has held on to its three Michelin stars since 1981, very nearly did not enter the culinary world. “Like many young people, I wanted to travel and go on an adventure and do something different from what my parents were doing,” reminisces chef Blanc on his younger years. “Though I’m a fourth-generation chef, I didn’t want to enter the family restaurant business. I had always intended to be a pilot in the air force,” he shares.
Happily for fans of his haute French cuisine, and regrettably for chef Blanc, he did not pass the pilot test as he is colour blind. He did, however, fulfil his dream of taking to the air in 1962, when he became a cabin crew member for six months. “I’ve always loved flying, and joining the Singapore Airlines International Culinary Panel allowed me to marry my two loves.”
From its humble beginnings with just seven staff, the family business that chef Blanc joined in 1965 has now grown into Village Blanc, a 120 sq m space with three hotels, two restaurants, a spa and even a cinema. The three-Michelin-star Restaurant Georges Blanc – run by three generations of women in the Blanc family since 1872, before chef Blanc took over in 1968 – is its centrepiece. “It contributes 20 per cent of the revenue, but takes up to 95 per cent of my time,” says the chef.
The zealous and spirited chef states that he has no intention to retire anytime soon, and stands by his belief that when “there is no passion, there is no elevation”. He explains that he is devoted to his craft because of the joy that it brings, and likens being pleased with what he does as a measure of success.
“If you don’t like what you’re doing, you will think about retiring (early),” he jokes.
It is this dedication that he brings to creating a gourmet meal on board Singapore Airlines. “I ensure the spirit of the recipe is retained,” he says. “To me, the sauce is the liquid seasoning of the dish, so it’s very important to get that right.”
For the chef, who was awarded the Commander of the Legion of Honour, the highest decoration in France, in 2008, the customer always comes first. “Respect is the most important value of a restaurant,” he says emphatically. “I always tell young chefs that you must focus on the customer. If you focus on money, you will never make it.”
His favourite part of being on the panel, he says, is “working with one of the world’s best companies. It prides itself on good values, service and food. The spirit of the Singapore Airlines family is something I’ve always liked – it’s all about sharing different experiences around the world.”
– TEXT BY LOW SHI PING
PHOTOGRAPHY: TAN WEI TE, ART DIRECTION: NG SAY LEE, GROOMING: ADELENE SIOW, HAIR: ANNIE TAY
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.