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[SINGAPORE] Another star fell at the Marina Bay Sands when the integrated resort confirmed yesterday that Guy Savoy - its haute French restaurant venture with the Paris-based three Michelin-starred chef - would cease operations from Feb 3.
But the premises will not remain empty for long. Come June or July, acclaimed Australian chef David Thompson will debut Long Chim, a Thai street food dining concept that will be the first of several such eateries that he plans to open around the world.
MBS declined to comment on the reasons for the closure, except to say that it was a joint decision with Mr Savoy. The closure follows that of Spanish restaurant Santi in 2012. Unlike previously when MBS had a direct stake in its celebrity chef restaurants, the space will be directly leased out to Mr Thompson and his partners, whom he declined to name.
Mr Thompson is a highly regarded chef whose Thai restaurant Nahm in London was the first such restaurant to earn a Michelin star. He closed the restaurant in 2012 because of sourcing issues and moved to Bangkok where he re-opened Nahm in The Metropolitan hotel to rave reviews.
He decided to do a casual concept in Singapore because "Nahm is a unique operation and really can be only done in Thailand", he said. "Sure, I have run similar restaurants in London and Australia but having cooked in Bangkok, it's the only place for a restaurant of this nature. Long Chim's food on the other hand is street food, much more simple, accessible and affordable."
This will be his first business in Singapore. Speaking to BT from outside Bangkok where he is filming a TV series, he said: "Singapore is a food mecca with a very exciting dining scene. I have always liked Singapore and this opportunity arose."
The investment will be "considerable in both time and money", and he is not put off by the crowded dining scene. "We are not competing with anyone else - we are offering something different."
Meanwhile, Guy Savoy's executive chef and restaurant manager Eric Bost described the closure as "frustrating and disappointing".
"We wanted to achieve great things and we have gotten good feedback in all this time we have been open."
Mr Bost, who has been with the restaurant since its opening, plans to return to France or his native USA to open his own eatery. He said that most of the 14 kitchen staff and 13 service staff will be staying on with MBS, while a handful of management staff previously deployed to Singapore from the Guy Savoy group will be rejoining its other overseas outlets.
Those in the industry were not surprised to hear of Guy Savoy's closure. Chef owner Emmanuel Stroobant of Saint Pierre restaurant noted that "the current trend in Singapore is for a more casual environment but with quality cuisine. It's not so much a reflection of the chef's talent but the ever-evolving food trends in this country."
Olivier Bendel, head of the Deliciae Group, added: "French haute cuisine is difficult to appreciate. Providing this level of excellence is very expensive especially when all the products have to be imported. Obviously, Guy is a very talented chef and his team possesses great professionalism, but opening a restaurant is always very difficult and you never know if it will be a success or not."
After Guy Savoy and Santi - named after the three Michelin-starred chef Santi Santamaria who died of a heart attack in February 2011, only three of the five original celebrity chef restaurants remain. Waku Ghin, by top Japanese-Australian chef Tetsuya Wakuda, remains on the same level as Guy Savoy. Santi's space was leased out to a Chinese restaurant. The remaining two - Wolfgang Puck's CUT and Daniel Boulud's DB Bistro Moderne - are sited in the shopping complex.
- Additional reporting by DEBBIE YONG