Interview: Chef Jonas Noël on Bringing Bistronomy to Shanghai

By Cristina Ng, June 26, 2018

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The Waterhouse’s new executive chef Jonas Noël is helming his first kitchen after stints at the legendary Michel Bras in France, Oslo’s Bagatelle, Caprice in Hong Kong and the Bund location of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. We caught up with him to see how these varied influences take shape at Oxalis.

Who is your biggest culinary influence?
Working with the Bras family taught me to respect each ingredient, even the cheapest one. That was a completely different approach and while life in the kitchen can be selfish, Michel Bras and his son are in the kitchen daily from 8am until the end of lunch service and then they return for dinner service prep. When you see a three-Michelin-star chef doing that, it humbles you. Being a chef seems fancy, but at the end of the day, we just cook food.

"Five years spent in China has opened my mind to lighter and cleaner flavors"

What do the dishes at Oxalis say about your style?
The menu is a reflection of my training starting from the beginning of my career when I learned the basics of French cuisine at Chateau Les Crayeres. Elements of the Bras farm-to-table approach, Nordic methods of preserving foods, and attention to details learned at L’Atelier are all present in my cooking. Last but not least, five years spent in China has opened my mind to lighter and cleaner flavors such as Cantonese steamed fish and double boiled consommé.

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Which dish is the best representation of that?
I particularly like the hand-cut beef dish that is a result of three different food memories: a beef tartare with Laphroaig and caviar made at Caprice, a Cantonese private kitchen where I tasted Indian almond for the first time and whiskey sours.

What local ingredients are you most excited about?
I’m a big fan of Shaoxing wine. The flavor is quite similar to French yellow wine from Jura, so I substitute that into classic French recipes such as our chicken terrine and a poached egg with sautéed porcini purée and cheese foam.

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What do you think of the dining scene in Shanghai and how does Oxalis stand out?
Shanghai’s dining scene is still evolving and there is plenty of room for new concepts as local customers are becoming more knowledgeable about Western food. At Oxalis, we want to offer ‘bistronomy,’ which is a mix between bistro and gastronomy. This is a term from the 1990s, when sous chefs were leaving Michelin star restaurants to start their own businesses. In order to afford Paris rent, they went with a very casual atmosphere while the ingredients and food were still ‘fine.’ That is what we want to be at Oxalis.


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