A Tête-à-Tête with Chef Himanshu Saini and Catherine Rénier of Jaeger-LeCoultre on the Brand’s Precision Atelier

The two-Michelin-starred chef shares the details of his collaboration with JLC. On a global tour, the Precision Atelier is currently being held in Dubai
A Tête-à-Tête with Chef Himanshu Saini and Catherine Rénier of Jaeger-LeCoultre on the Brand’s Precision Atelier
May 16, 2024
A Tête-à-Tête with Chef Himanshu Saini and Catherine Rénier of Jaeger-LeCoultre on the Brand’s Precision Atelier

At Watches & Wonders 2024, Jaeger-LeCoultre (JLC) unveiled its collaboration with a culinary superstar as part of its Made of Makers programme. It’s called the Precision Atelier, which is essentially a gastronomic experience crafted by two-Michelin-starred chef Himanshu Saini. The unique experience aims to channel the brand’s core value of precision into a flavourful culinary retreat. After its debut at the brand’s W&W booth, the Precision Atelier is now travelling around the world. Currently, the exhibition is being held at the ICD Brookfield Place in Dubai’s DIFC; it will continue till May 19. 

Chef Saini’s culinary journey began at a very young age, under the tutelage of his mother and aunts in India. Today, he is recognised as one of the world’s most talented and exciting interpreters of Indian cuisine. His restaurants in Dubai and Mumbai, Trèsind and Trèsind Studio, have become veritable gourmet destinations. He was awarded a Michelin star in 2022 for the Trèsind Studio in Dubai and just a year later, he won another star. His restaurants are globally recognised for the holistic experience they offer with constantly changing menus, intriguing flavours and textures, and exquisite craftsmanship – each dish is like an objet d’art, accompanied by a touch of ceremony that adds to its poignant impact.

Chef Himanshu Saini for JLC's Made of Makers programme

The Precision Atelier menu consists of four experiential bites that will be offered to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s guests. Chef Saini has reimagined the rich culinary heritage of India, combining flavours of the sub-continent with ingredients from the Vallée de Joux, adding a distinctive yet subtle Swiss accent to each creation. In other words, the menu is an amalgamation of Indian and Swiss flavours. There is a charming play of textures in each dish presented in a visually captivating form. 

GMT India caught up with JLC CEO Catherine Rénier and Chef Saini to talk about this exceptional partnership. 

GMT India: What made the brand choose to work with Chef Saini? How is his work aligned with everything that JLC stands for?

Catherine Rénier (CR): Now that our Made of Makers programme has been around for a few years, we notice a common ground in all our collaborations and with all artists with whom we have worked. They are all passionate about their art and there is a deep respect for heritage and cultural inspiration of their own; besides, there’s a sense of innovation and daring. Of course, one needs to be daring to embark on this type of project so that one can step out of the comfort zone as an artist. It was very obvious to us that Chef Saini’s approach to the culinary arts is very creative; there’s a lot of emotion in his cuisine. And we loved this mindset. We met and discussed the project. It was only after both sides were sure that there was perfect alignment that we embarked on the collaboration together — it has been a fantastic discovery on our side. And we are taking the public on a unique culinary and gustatory journey. The bites are not only beautiful and colourful, but they're also innovative. Blending Indian flavours with those of Vallée de Joux was quite the challenge. We can already say that we have achieved an amazing collaboration. 

‘Crimson Rosette’ expresses the notion of Precision of Fabrication through an intricate assembly of colours and forms, layering together the flavours of beetroot, pine nuts, orange zest, amaranth and arugula

GMT India: You are combining Indian flavours with ingredients from Vallée de Joux. Could you tell us more about these ingredients?

Himanshu Saini (HS): So, the challenge for me was to create four bites with different precision philosophies: precision of taste, fabrication, chronometry, and transformation. The ingredients from the Valley are of course not commonly used for Indian cooking. But that was the challenge we were keen to take on because we wanted to create a collaboration between two different cultures. We also wanted to ensure the right balance of spices while celebrating the ingredients produced in the Valley. For instance, for “Mysterious Forest”, I wanted to pair chestnuts with mushrooms to create an earthy bite, with different textures; it encapsulates the “precision of taste”, uniting the flavours of wild mushrooms, artichokes, and chestnuts, in a presentation that immediately brings to mind the mossy floor of the Vallée de Joux pine forests. A warm consommé, made with mushrooms and white asparagus, is paired with this dish. 

‘Mysterious Forest’ encapsulates the Precision of Taste, uniting the flavours of wild mushrooms, artichokes and chestnuts in a presentation that immediately brings to mind the mossy floor of the Vallée de Joux pine forests

To cite another example, verbena is an ingredient which is not commonly found in India or used in Indian cuisine. But it's very interesting to see this fresh herb, which can be used in both dried and raw forms, create an explosion of flavours, almost like panipuri flavours but inside a cacao shell. The “panipuri water” has verbena in it, along with other citrus notes. The verbena really elevates the flavour of the water and it is paired with a Persimmon and Marigold Soda, which is also citrusy and refreshing. In fact, it’s a non-alcoholic beverage which has been paired with this bite-sized offering. 

Alluding to the Precision of Transformation in watchmaking – from raw materials to finished timepieces – ’Verbena Outburst’ features a ‘liquid stone’ flavoured with lemon verbena, mint and Indian spices

GMT India: Do you have a favourite among the dishes on the menu?

HS: The most interesting one for me is the “Pine Nut Delight”, wherein we prepare milk from the pine nuts sourced from the Valley and then we pair it with stracciatella and grapes, combined in turn with hibiscus and spices. There’s an element of surprise in every bite, and this holds true for all dishes. The “Pine Nut Delight” is paired with Red Wine Milk Punch (spices again combined with wine). 

‘Pine Nut Delight’ translates the Precision of Chronometry through a meticulously timed soaking process that creates a rich pine nut milk. Combined with cacao, vanilla, red grapes, hibiscus and spices, it delivers an extraordinary taste sensation.

GMT India: What is your dream watch from Jaeger-LeCoultre?

HS: Before this collaboration, I was completely focused on my culinary journey. But now I have started to enjoy watches equally. The Reverso Tribute Chronograph is one of my favourite timepieces. It gives me so much confidence whenever I wear it. It's also something you have to earn, so it makes the piece even more special. It’s inspiring to get to wear something that has a rich legacy spanning 200 years.

Image credits: Jaeger-LeCoultre