Paving New Ways for French-Japanese Cuisine, Meet Chef Gerard Villaret Horcajo of Elements, Inspired by Ciel Bleu
Bangkok Foodies have witnessed Elements, Okura Prestige Bangkok journey up close and from afar prior to earning a Michelin Star in the Michelin Guide 2019, to which Chef Antony Scholtmeyer garnered under his stewardship at the time. The restaurant brand has managed to retain their star even with COVID-19 crisis in full swing and with a change of chef within several years.
Although with the arrival of the pandemic, followed by renowned chefs and restaurant brands lending their names to create new gastronomical institutions to Bangkok’s dining scene, in addition to the rise of private dining spaces and private chefs, may have led us to look in other directions in recent years. Yet, a new found presence and menu has completely captured our attention. Enter…Chef Gerard Villaret Horcajo, Chef de Cuisine of Elements, inspired by Ciel Bleu (Michelin 1 Star).
Previous Elements fans might be asking, what’s with the “inspired by Ciel Bleu”? Well, we will need to go back to where Chef Gerard Villaret Horcajo’s career had blossomed. Chef Gerard, a Spanish native reflects,“I started as a young chef at Ciel Bleu of Hotel Okura Amsterdam, I still recall the level of quality and kitchen performance until today”.
The aspiring chef also worked alongside the likes of Chef Joachim Wissler of the 3 Michelin Star, Vendome in Germany and Chef Eneko Atxa of Azurmendi in the Basque country. After making his mark working in a number Michelin Star rated restaurants in Europe, Gerard returned to Ciel Bleu, with Chef Onno Kokmeijer in Amsterdam with the intent to resettle in Bangkok to launch Elements, inspired by Ciel Bleu at the Okura Prestige Bangkok. With close to 6 months installed at his current post, the vibrant young Chef is already making waves among the discerning fine-diners.
True to the core concept of ‘French cuisine with Japanese influences’, after sampling Gerard’s cuisine on two occasions we truly felt stood apart from what we have experienced in Bangkok. Meticulous and fine in detail yet approachable, there’s a distinct flair in everything Gerard touches. The merging of Japanese and French is not juxtaposed but coalesced into its own style of cuisine. Besides that, each dish alone could be appreciated without becoming part of a complete ‘journey’. We couldn’t wait to get to know Gerard a little better and I’m sure foodies will too once they’ve had a chance to take just a single bite of this extraordinary Japanese-French (and a bit of something else) creation.
BKF: What attracted you to come and work in Bangkok, Thailand and how did it come about?
Chef Gerard: I have always been fascinated to Asian countries especially Thailand and Bangkok seemed like the place to be when it comes to the food scene. The culinary options here are certainly fascinating and I am intrigued by it, and I hope to learn more about Thai food and local ingredients.
BKF: How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your work life and career and also your personal life and lifestyle?
Chef Gerard: I was planning on coming to Bangkok since mid of last year, but because of the travel restriction I was unable to and I was looking forward to coming here. But I am finally here so I am very happy. When I first arrived in Bangkok, the COVID-19 situation had restrained me from traveling around Thailand to experience the local culture, meeting with local farmers and suppliers and also trying out restaurants, both fine dining and local street food which would have been amazing.
BKF: Where do you source your ingredients and what are some of the key produce, guests may find on the current ‘Spring Guestronomic Set Journey’?
Chef Gerard: The ingredients we mostly used in our ‘Spring Guestronomic Set Journey’ are from Europe, especially France, Japan and Thailand. For example, the Foie Gras we use in our Spring menu are from Jean Larnaudie, France; the Kagawa Olive-Fed A5 wagyu are from Japan, and we also use local herbs and vegetables in the menu.
BKF: What thought and action process do you go through when creating an original dish?
Chef Gerard: First, it is all about the seasonality, premium quality, organic and limited ingredients. Secondly, using the right cooking technique to elevate the produce in order to create a unique yet recognisable dish. Creating a dish is very complex because creating a dish that will cater to everyone’s preference is the hardest part because we are individuals with different tastes, palettes and preferences.
Ciel Bleu and Elements, inspired by Ciel Bleu are sister restaurants representing the similar concept which is French cuisine with Japanese influences by both flavor and ingredients. I simply want to elevate the flavor and adjust it to the local preference.
BKF: Which dish/es that you are currently presenting on this menu, do you feel deeply reflects your unique mark?
Chef Gerard: For me, every dish is unique and has my trademark written on it: the presentation, the use of ingredients or the flavor. I have tried all of these dishes over and over until I am certain of its outcome, I then put it on the menu. My everyday routine apart from tasting all the preparations before the dinner service, I will try one complete dish from the course menu to ensure that it is consistent. And there are plenty of times that I have changed some elements of the dish I tasted the day after (haha), a very typical chef I guess, nothing is fully up to our standard, there’s always something new to add.
My team sometimes goes crazy with me, but I’m never satisfied. There is something that we can always improve, flavor, technique, and all the dishes went and go through this process on a daily basis, that’s why I think they all have this trademark.
BKF: What are some of the dishes you’ve loved or not-so-much-loved that you’ve discovered for yourself in Thailand?
Chef Gerard: I am now quite familiar with Thai cuisine; nevertheless, what I love the most is not a specific dish but rather its combination. Thai cuisine contains complex and full flavor; saltiness, sourness, spiciness and sweetness, and it comes as an explosion of flavor. And the local fresh herbs are often used for deep sauce and I mean your seafood sauce! Amazing!!
To be honest the fact of eating insects, even so… I know they are rich in proteins and minerals… I’m not ready to add that on to my diet .. not just yet anyway!
BKF: What do you think of the status of the fine dining scene in Bangkok at the moment?
Chef Gerard: For me, I think the fine dining scene here in Bangkok is extremely interesting and fun and it is great to see that everyone knows each other and supports each other. The level of the restaurant’s standard here is amazing. I can see that it is a very competitive market which is actually great for the guest because the more competitive it gets the benefits fall on to the guest. They’ll get to experience fantastic cuisine and great service. In the end, everyone wins.
BKF: Which restaurants would you love to try or chefs that you would love to meet and have not yet?
Chef Gerard: I think I have tried almost all of my go-to-list of restaurants in Bangkok. I do go out for dinner quite a lot to explore, especially the first 3-months of my arrival. I have visited most of the Michelin restaurants. My next visit plan in these coming months is Igniv, Baan Tepa and Suhring.
Thanks to the gastronomic events happening in Bangkok, I had the chance to meet a lot of colleagues already but one of the chef I would very much like to meet is Vincent Thierry, I admire Chefs with this experience who still are so dedicated and passionate after so many years working on the highest level.
BKF: What are some of the plans for the near future at Elements, inspired by Ciel Bleu?
Chef Gerard: We are quite ambitious in future planning although hospitality is currently considered as a fragile business, that’s why we need to stay humble, the competence is big.
We love the feedback we receive with our current menus, and this gives us a lot of positive energy and confidence for more great things to come! I believe in Elements, inspired by Ciel Bleu, I have an amazing team, and I feel very lucky to have them!
Elements, inspired by Ciel Bleu @ The Okura Prestige Bangkok
Park Ventures Ecoplex, 57 Wireless Road, Bangkok 10330
– Wednesday to Sunday from 6.00 pm – 10.30 pm
– Monday and Tuesday closed
Tel: +66 (0)2 6879000
Facebook: Elements, inspired by Ciel Bleu
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