Épure’s chef de cuisine on creating a feast for the senses

As Épure turns 10, chef de cuisine Aven Lau talks to Stephenie Gee about his journey so far, the importance of slowing down, and creating a feast for both the eyes and the palate

When Épure first opened in June 2014, it was with the vision of bringing a taste of contemporary France to the heart of our city. For a decade, that vision has proven successful and award-winning – for eight consecutive years since 2016, the restaurant has been bestowed the elusive Michelin star, holding the fort as one of the few fine-dining establishments on the dark side of the harbour. Now, under the tenure of Singaporean-born Aven Lau – best known for his time at Bâtard, where his edible artworks catapulted the establishment into its present lustre, and who last year took over the reigns as chef de cuisine – Épure is embarking on a new era of excellence.

How did you begin your culinary journey? You graduated with a diploma in marketing.

I began my culinary journey by drawing inspiration from my grandmother. Despite being a terrible cook herself (being humorous), she always wondered why the food tasted so much better when prepared by others. This curiosity sparked my interest in exploring the world of cooking and discovering
the secrets behind delicious flavours.

Who are some of your biggest culinary influences?

I tried to be my own inspiration rather than simply copying others. I believe in developing my own unique style and approach to cooking, drawing inspiration from various sources and experiences. However, I do appreciate and learn from the work of other chefs and culinary experts. Their creativity, expertise and innovative techniques have influenced me in shaping my own culinary style.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve encountered at Épure so far, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge I’ve encountered is the shortage of manpower in the food and beverage industry. This has made it difficult to ensure a smooth operation and maintain a high level of service and quality. I’m grateful for the support from the company and my colleagues during these challenging times, as well as from my friends, family and close ones, which has been invaluable in providing encouragement and motivation to overcome these challenges.

What has been the highlight of your journey at Épure so far?

Definitely the opportunity to return to Hong Kong and try to evolve my cooking style and explore new ways to prepare dishes. It has provided a platform for me to challenge myself creatively and push the boundaries of the cooking techniques.

How would you describe your cuisine and your culinary philosophy?

I would describe my cuisine as a reflection of my vision and personal taste. I strive to create food that not only looks visually appealing, but also tastes delicious by combining flavours and ingredients in a way that harmonises and excites the palate.

Tell me about your plating/presentation style?

I try to maintain a balance between beauty and simplicity. I believe that less is often more, and I strive to avoid overcrowding the plate with too many elements in order to let the natural beauty of the ingredients shine through.

Where do you find your inspiration?

By keeping an open mind and being receptive to the world around me, I find inspiration for my dishes in various aspects of daily life.

Tell me about the current menu at Épure. What would be a standout or your favourite?

One standout and personal favourite on the current menu would be our Kyushu tomato with fresh cheese and white balsamic dish. It features a flavourful broth infused with a blend of five different herbs, creating a harmonious and refreshing combination.

During your time at Bâtard, your taxing schedule and intense dedication to your craft pushed you to burn out. What was the biggest lesson you learned from that experience?

The biggest lesson I learned is the importance of patience. I realised that everything in life takes time, and achieving success requires a consistent effort and a balanced approach.

How do you now take care of your mental health and how has your way of working changed since recovering?

Taking breaks is needed, as it’s a marathon rather than a sprint. The most sustainable success requires pacing myself and maintaining a healthy balance between my work and my personal life.

What do you hope guests take away from dining at Épure?

My only hope for guests dining at Épure is that they leave feeling happy and satisfied with the food, the overall dining atmosphere and service.

Your vision for the restaurant’s future?

The culinary landscape is constantly evolving, and by creating a harmonious balance between exceptional flavours and creativity in dishes, and attentive service, I’m confident that Épure will continue to thrive and exceed expectations.

What’s next for you?

While I don’t have a specific plan in mind at the moment, I believe that everything will fall into place by staying adaptable and open-minded. I’m excited to see where the future takes me and what new adventures await.

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