Country / City: Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur
Profession / Occupation: Chef
In 1998 Nathalie Arbefeuille went to Malaysia to devote herself to cooking, which had been a passion from a very young age. Nathalie developed the concept of opening a cookery school in her home, where she was able to welcome more than five hundred students. And so Nathalie Gourmet Studio was born.
Nathalie decided to invest in a new business idea in 2009; a chic bistro, cooking studio, catering and consultancy service in the inner suburbs of Kuala Lumpur that opened the following year. Subsequently, she opened a second French restaurant in the centre of Kuala Lumpur in 2011. Her ambition is to offer elaborate and modern French cuisine made from the best local and imported produce, and to offer it at affordable prices – criteria that aren't generally compatible.
Why did you decide to live in this country? What aspect of these two cultures do you find most enriching?
My husband's job took us to Asia originally and then back to Malaysia ten years ago. The country's mix of cultures (Chinese, Malaysian and Indian) makes it a model of respect for different cultures and religions. It's also a very cosmopolitan country, and offers a very diverse range of cuisines, flavours and spices that influence my cooking every day.
What French touch do you pass on there? What French Art de Vivre are you sharing with others in the country?
It wasn't very long ago that most Asians didn’t have much understanding of Western Gastronomy trends. But now, as people are travelling more, they're beginning to understand the value of our cuisine and our wines. Today, my task is to make an elaborate and fresh cuisine with touches of Asian flavours, which is also beautiful to look at before you taste it. Another part of my job is to make people understand that cooking is an art, and although it's only ephemeral, it can bring people joy that will remain engraved in their memory.
Which experience epitomising French art de vivre in your country and/or city would you recommend?
There are very few French restaurateurs in Kuala Lumpur, but I'd recommend taking a trip to the country on a Sunday, far away from all the brouhaha of the city where business never stops. There's fabulous countryside in the Cameron Highlands, where you can find the country's beautiful tea plantations, and I love to go on long walks there. We pack a nice picnic in the boot, set off for the day and get a breath of fresh air at high altitude, which helps to prepare us for another busy week ahead.