Chef Jean Michel Fraisse French Feast

Jean Michel Fraisse – Chef, Educator & Consultant

Jean Michel Fraisse

Jean Michel Fraisse chef, educator and consultant, shares with us his passion for life and cooking, and some insight into life behind the scenes of a restaurant.

What do you do and how did you get into the industry?

I wear many hats, from educator, trainer and hospitality consultant to chef. But cooking is probably the thing that is in my blood. I have had this aspiration since I was young. At 14, I chose to enrol in hotel school. At that time, two of my cousins were cheffing abroad; it meant if I could cook, I could see the world too.

Food has been an important motivation in my life. My mother, now 94, was a great cook. So too was my grandma. After my father passed away when I was 7, life was not easy but my mother always managed to put good food on the table. She taught us about taste and ingredients, and what eating is all about. She fed not just our hunger, but our imagination. The importance of eating well stayed with us.

Wanderlust brought me here after I’ve got all my academic qualifications; the lure of the East, the hospitality and the opportunities Malaysia presented 24 years ago made me stay.

What’s the best/ worst part of your job?

Travelling and meeting interesting people are the best. All kinds of people eat at a restaurant and sometimes you can get good conversations going. I am a social animal so I enjoy this part of my work. I also hope that I have made a difference with my ‘food evangelism’.
Kitchen work is hard and long and it’s a race against time every day at every service. You always want to do better than yesterday. You get easily addicted to this high adrenalin feeling.

If cooking is my passion, I sometimes feel bored cooking the same food every day. My Saturday leisure cooking classes at The French Culinary School in Asia are a balloon of oxygen for me as I can do something different. I have been doing classes for the last 17 years and my long-term students challenge me to explore new avenues and new types of food. From a French chef I became a world chef and they helped me to get into the soul of ethnic cuisines and I love it. We always learn more when we are teaching. I do not simply teach recipes; I tell stories and I love the stories around food.

The beauty of cooking is that it gives you endless possibilities. I always compare cooking to music. A lot of utensils in the kitchen reminds me of musical instruments. The stove is the piano, drums are pots and pans, you work the microplane like a violin, and pluck feathers like you would the guitar. And if you want to be an accomplished chef or home cook conjuring up plates that sing, you need to be able to orchestrate different cooking skills. That’s exciting.

What’s something you’d like people to know about being a chef as a profession?

That it’s not glamorous. It’s not like what the stories in the media tell you. It’s a job to make your living or answer a calling, but not to get rich. You need to be courageous and hardworking; willing to learn new things every day, be curious and be able to stomach everything and take brickbats from customers at the end of a long day.

Share with us a funny story.

What’s funny? Customers who order duck confit and complain that it’s salty. That’s like being surprised that salted fish is salty. Then there are those who order fish and comment that it’s fishy, the pork is porky, the beef is beefy and the lamb, too lamby! But durian, no problem! My suggestion to sensitive eaters would be, “Eat chicken, lah!” What can a chef do but laugh-cry when someone asks for chilli sauce on their Beef Bourguignon? Or comes to a French restaurant asking for pasta.

What’s something you’d like guests to know about French Feast?

A small but very important detail: we use only natural sea salt from Guerande in the kitchen for everything. Why is this a big deal? Because bad salt is really bad for you and good salt is really good for you.

Something that makes Jean Michel Fraisse’s heart glad?

Recently, during the very difficult coronavirus movement restriction, a customer who’s more like a buddy came to order a meal. I was truly glad to see him in these bleak times. But his next action made my knees go weak. He paid with a big heart, knocking me over with his message of love, support and solidarity. It was the big, warm bear hug I so needed. I am truly glad for our regulars who continued to support us during this period. Such random acts of friendship and kindness are what your heart beats for.

What’s one of the wildest things you’ve done behind the scenes?

The times we cooked anaconda, iguana, larvae and etc and served them without notice. Diners were only told the next day and you can imagine the reactions. That was in the context of the Amazon jungle situation we were in, of course.

What’s your favourite food and beverage pairing?

Ask me to choose between foie gras and caviar, and spare parts like tripe, kidney and brain, and I will always go for offal. Living in the Amazon jungle with the Indians taught me that everything is food — no matter how strange.

Being French, we like to start a full-blown dinner with an aperitif or three. I like all kinds of alcohol but a good meal is not complete without good wine. I don’t have lofty aspirations when it comes to wine. As a teacher of the psychology of eating habits, I try not to fall into the trap of eating symbols.

What influences our eating choices?

Love, life, work and respect for our peers. I eat and drink the products that are the sweat of people I get to know well and admire. So my favourite winemaker is Alain Brumont in Madiran. To me he makes great wines at the right price and that’s bloody sexy. I’d choose Château Montus and Bouscassé any time.

And it would be nice to end dinner with an eau de vie and a Delord Armagnac. Trust me, you sleep a lot deeper at night.

The perfect day off would be…

I am up on a mountain, trekking, or in nature. Or I’m foraging in the forest for mushrooms. A day spent gardening or time with family and friends is also good. Or putting together the mother of jigsaw puzzles. End that day with a good back scratch from the love of my life!

What do you do for fun?

Watching old movies and talent shows, rugby and Tour de France, singing with and cooking for friends. Night out.

What’s your view on the food scene in KL?

Things have improved tremendously but we rely on too many gimmicks and have too many restaurants. The cake is too small for so many players. The MCO will do some housekeeping. Restaurant owners have invested too much money in what can be seen and few will get back ROI. Food delivery and Netflix will kill the restaurant business. Running a restaurant and doing food delivery are two different businesses and doing both may be damaging, as food delivered does not have the same organoleptic characteristics. And with the kind of rentals you have to pay now in a good location in KL, it’s kamikaze to venture into the restaurant business.

What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?

That’s hard to say at this moment of economic uncertainty. It’s possible things can go rapidly downhill. But moving on I would like to push my business to use a maximum of local products, make our food production more environmentally friendly. And I’d like to learn how to make cheese.

Find more interviews similar to this one with Jean Michel Fraisse here and stay up to date on KL’s culinary scene here.


  1. Gosh! The mum’s 94! So blessed! Yes, economic uncertainty right now! Dunno what our future holds but one thing’s for sure – hard times like ahead!

  2. Jean-Luc Toussaint

    Ce fut une révélation de manger chez Jean-Michel Fraisse qui nous avait invité dans sa maison de Telavi, lors de notre passage en Géorgie. Certaines plantes que nous baptisons «mauvaises herbes », se retrouvent dans notre assiette sous forme d’une excellente salade.
    Les escargots que nous mangeons en bon français, cuisinés avec du beurre, de la l’ail et du persil, nous présentés cuit à l’eau, dans leu coquille, et servi avec un aïoli et du sel de Guerande; et c’est excellent. Et les cèpes à l’ail avaient été ramassés dans la forêt du coin; un délice.
    Quant à l’apéritif, le vin de sureau fait maison, je ne vous en parle pas; nous avons presque bu toute la bouteille.
    Merci Jean-Michel pour cette magnifique découverte gustative.

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