Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2017
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Chef de Cuisine, Four Seasons Resort Seychelles
- Four Seasons Resort Seychelles; Joël Robuchon, Paris; Cheval Blanc, Courchevel, France; Saisons, Institut Paul Bocuse, Ecully, France
- Réunion Island
- Bachelor of Culinary Arts & Restaurant Management, Institut Paul Bocuse, Lyons, France; Studied Biomedical Science, Murdoch University, Australia
- French, English, Creole
“You need the discipline of a soldier and the composure of a diplomat to be successful in this business,” notes Olivier Barré, who is a bit of both. More than anything right now, though, he’s the talent behind the remarkable culinary variety of Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island.
In his first-ever role as Head Chef, Olivier oversees four Resort dining and drinking experiences, creating the menus and guiding the kitchen and service behind each.
There’s all-day Claudine with its relaxed air and open kitchen. “It’s all about the Mediterranean,” he says, running through inspirations from countries along both seacoasts. “We like to add a touch of Italian at night.” There’s The Lighthouse – “such a beautiful, intimate place” – offering fresh grilled seafood, a raw bar, dry-aged steaks and more from an open kitchen in a beacon-like building between two beaches. “The menu has twists of Asian – ginger, lemongrass, yuzu – but its base is French.”
The Deli is the spot to enjoy fresh-made breakfast items or pick up rotating array of picnic-ready fare including sandwiches, baguettes, patés, cheeses and salads. “We slice fine hams on a fabulous Berkel meat slicer, so we can really put on a show for guests.” And there’s The Bar, serving easy hotel favourites and Creole specialties from tapas to octopus salad to pair with fresh-mixed tropical cocktails, cigars and shisha.
Olivier is right at home surrounded by the Indian Ocean. He was born and raised on Réunion Island, a French territory off the coast of Madagascar, about 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometres) from Seychelles as the gull flies. He had an amazing life there, he remembers: “Always sunny, very diverse. It’s one of those rare places that you see so many cultures and religions living well together.”
Olivier fell into rugby as a youngster and continued until he was 23 after relocating from Australia to France to pursue his career. He typically played #9 – “sort of the on-field manager” – and the sport really shaped who he is, he says. “Now that I’ve grown, I understand why I’m drawn to culinary. As in rugby, you need to think tactically and proceed confidently: You have to win the service to please the people, and the service is different every night.” Rugby also taught Olivier to be humble and respectful – two important qualities for any kitchen. “The end of an evening is like the end of a match: you shake hands, forget about tensions, and look forward to the next night’s service.”
Olivier originally wanted to go into the military to study engineering, but his father suggested he might be better suited as a chef. “He told me the kitchen is like the military, with all the staffing and the ranks. So I thought, why not give it a try?”
With his parents help, he enrolled at Institut Paul Bocuse and studied culinary and restaurant management. He excelled, including assisting Alain Lecossec, a Meilleur Ouvrier de France, at the school’s onsite restaurant Saisons. “Every two weeks, we had a new group of students in the kitchen, and I would have to adapt to lead them. I got so much knowledge out of that.” He also got placements at Michelin-starred restaurants in France alongside renowned talents such as Yannick Alleno and Joël Robuchon.
Now far from those heady scenes, Olivier puts his own talents into creative use of sourced and local ingredients – “one thing we’ll never run out of here is coconuts!” he notes with a laugh – and pursuing his passion for fishing. There is an amazing variety of sea life throughout Seychelles, he says: “Beautiful tuna, red snapper and grouper with tails shaped like a crescent moon. Our project manager went out fishing recently and saw 200 dolphins.”
Olivier shares his passion with Resort clientele through the Taste of Place experience that sees guests fishing in the morning, then consulting with him on how they’d like their catch prepared. “It’s a great way for me to connect and understand the guests’ tastes. It strengthens my ability to please.”
Meantime, Olivier is right where he wants to be on the shores of Desroches. “Being on the sea or next to it does wonders. I can completely relax and focus on what I’m doing.”