Steve Van Remoortel, the new executive chef at Raffles Hotel Le Royal, is executing changes and tells Gregory Pellechi all about it. Photography by Conor Wall.

It is not every day that a chef with a Michelin Star comes to Cambodia and, having been here a matter of months, Belgium native Steve Van Remoortel is putting into place changes at Raffles’ Restaurant Le Royal and Café Monivong that will bring them into 2012.

The chef says he recognises the quality and standards set by the Raffles’ name and has taken that into account in his plans, adding that he is “planning to show off [Raffles], showcase the traditions and service standards.”

“Food should be about excitement,” says Chef Steve, who believes “most important thing” for cuisine is the quality of ingredients used. “Food trends evolve, techniques are reinvented, but ingredients stay the same. It’s not rocket science,” he says. To this end, one of his first moves has been to set up a herb garden at the top Phnom Penh hotel.

Having worked around the world, Chef Steve is bringing the numerous techniques and recipes that he has built up throughout his career to the Kingdom. He studied at culinary school in Belgium before moving on to exotic locations such as Jamaica in 1996, London in 2003, Phuket and Malaysia in 2005, Bangkok in 2008 and the Maldives in 2010. He earned his Michelin Star as Chef de Cuisine at Restaurant Torsk in Belgium, where he worked from 1999 to 2003.

Inspiration comes from his travels and on his first night in Phnom Penh he was drawn to one of the centre of Cambodian culinary life – the market.

“The first night here, I was walking on the street and ended up at a market just taking in the smells,” he says.

That does not keep Chef Steve from using more exotic ingredients. His morel consommé is made from a double mushroom consommé served with foie gras ravioli. Foie gras also forms a key ingredient in the jus served with his veal tenderloin, accompanied by a vegetable domino and basil air.

With a staff of 60 to 70 people under him, Chef Steve is now hard at work adhering to the traditions of Khmer cuisine while incorporating more modern techniques. He is even switching Café Monivong’s Sunday brunch to Le Royal restaurant and considers that it “should be a meal experience where there is less walking around.”

Centred around the concept of fresh produce, good service and products unique to Raffles, Chef Steve is using French oysters, foie gras and champagne as some of the “anti-hangover” measures available.

A 10-item brunch platter is also on the menu, which will be available on Jan. 8. The chef will launch the new menu for Le Royal restaurant on Jan. 9.

Raffles Hotel Le Royal 92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Tel: 023 981 888.