Anchor Image: Chef Emmanuel Stroobant.
For Chef Emmanuel Stroobant, Virtual Saint Pierre began as a response to the circuit breaker measures in Singapore and a way to reach out to fans of the fine dining restaurant.
“Trying times like what we are experiencing right now have only spurred us further to be more innovative with our approach to dining,” says the Michelin-starred celebrity chef, who helms the Emmanuel Stroobant Group with his wife Edina Hong.
“Virtual Saint Pierre is our way of bringing friends and families from different parts of Singapore together, bonded by a shared love for fine cuisine and sparkling conversation.”
Conceived as a specially curated omakase meal in a premium bento box, and personally delivered to your home, Virtual Saint Pierre has turned eating in into an exciting virtual party. Using a link provided along with the meal, participants can enter the Zoom room — the festivities begin when everyone has “arrived” and Chef Stroobant appears.
Virtual Saint Pierre is also the Belgian-born chef’s endeavour to do his bit for others affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Together with Rapzo Capital, Saint Pierre donated $25,000 in kind to Hope Initiative Alliance, which reaches out to communities such as low-income migrant workers, elderly, youths, and people with disabilities.
That’s not all; Saint Pierre has been sending 100 meals every week to healthcare front-liners, an initiative that will last until end of the circuit breaker. It follows the bento concept, with a menu of classic items such as prawn cocktail, spinach royale, Thai beef salad, vieux comte cheese, and salted caramel chocolate brownie. Every meal comes with sanitiser packs, alcohol wipes and disposable sustainable cutlery.
He says: “I truly believe that tough times call for even greater unity, because nobody is in this alone. While we have been affected greatly by the pandemic, we have also been blessed enough to be able to pivot out business and create alternative ways to sustain ourselves. As best as we can, we want to be able to share that blessing by spreading some positivity.”
For every order of a Virtual Saint Pierre menu, Saint Pierre donates to Hope Initiative Alliance to benefit migrant workers. How did this come about?
We were thinking of ways to use our kitchen and expertise to help others during this crisis. Our long-time friends and partners at Rapazo were also exploring ways to support the community. With them on board to cover some costs, we could reach out very early to offer support to both people in need and our front-line heroes.
What challenges did you have to overcome to create the Virtual Saint Pierre menu?
My wife Edina came up with the idea of having the meal in a bento. So it was left to my team and I to decide on recipes that could be plated a few hours before delivery yet transported well in terms of presentation and taste. Then came the logistics; we had to ensure the bento boxes were delivered in a refrigerated container and the level of service during both delivery and collection was of Saint Pierre’s standard. For every recipe, we carried out rounds of tastings, as well as several trials – like driving all over the island with the box in a refrigerated container to assess the quality of food after transportation.
As an effort to promote sustainability, the bento boxes are collected by Saint Pierre.
Sustainability has always been close to my heart. With deliveries and takeaways as the primary revenue for many of us in F&B now due to circuit breaker, it unfortunately results in more impact on our environment. Since Virtual Saint Pierre presents a meal in a bento box, we wanted to responsible to the environment. That’s also why we don’t provide disposable utensils with the bento boxes, since you’d have utensils at home. We collect the boxes the day after in the morning, hence our guests don’t even have to worry about washing up. It’s like room service in a luxury hotel!
Every Virtual Saint Pierre Zoom party kickstarts with you introducing the menu. Any memorable experience to share?
The interaction with our diners is what I found most fun. Each group will ask different questions. One guest insisted on having a glass of wine with me so I ended up rushing to my fridge to open a bottle. Since then, I always ensure to have wine next to me!
Most important lesson of circuit breaker for you?
Always be prepared for the unexpected, and to be quick on our feet to react effectively and positively. I think the Covid-19 pandemic is a big reminder for everyone to never take anything for granted, and to look at the world in a different way. There are two sides to a coin, so while the road ahead may be challenging, we should take it as a new beginning.
It’s also reminded me of the need to forge good relationships within our industry and double down on strong and meaningful partnerships. It warms my heart to see so many initiatives in Singapore that rally support both within and outside of the industry. I think it further highlights the need for everyone in the industry to build a strong support system for both good and bad times.
Your go-to comfort food during circuit breaker?
Couscous, vegetarian lasagne, dhal curry with naan bread… to name a few. I am vegetarian and always find these dishes very satisfying. Oh, my oldest daughter started baking during circuit breaker, so I had to add her butter cake to the list!
First thing you want to do after circuit breaker?
It may sound strange but for someone who works 14 hours a day pretty much every day, spending time at home with the family was enjoyable. So I don’t have any particular craving except maybe going back to yoga and going to the movies with the family.
For orders and other inquiries, visit here. On 22 May, Saint Pierre and Enoteca will present a Virtual Wine Dinner, which features a Virtual Saint Pierre dinner paired with curated wines from Italy, France and California.