Every year, the team behind the Hong Kong Tatler Best Restaurants guide chews over the standout dining experiences of the previous 12 months and decides who is worthy of the title Best New Chef. The 2016 winner was announced as Xavier Boyer, the French chef who took the helm at Gaddi’s this year, breathing new life into the historic restaurant at The Peninsula and securing its place on our Top 20 list after a two-year absence. Boyer did an apprenticeship at Joël Robuchon’s L’Astor in Paris before making his mark in four cities at Robuchon restaurants—in Paris, London, New York and Taipei. His dishes may bear the hallmarks of Robuchon’s refined style, but Boyer’s “modern classic” cooking is even more pared back, allowing seasonal ingredients to bask in their natural flavours.
What’s the first thing you do when you arrive in a new city?
The first thing I did when I arrived in Hong Kong was eat at other restaurants, mainly at local ones. I have to embrace the culture to know exactly where I’m stepping into. It’s important to know the tastes and the flavours people enjoy.
Where do you like to go to find inspiration?
I want to go to places where you can feel the ambience of the city. It’s very important to catch the spirit of a place, to see the people going about their everyday lives. It’s here where you see the heart of things. It’s the same thing when I started in Taipei, I would go and look at the local markets and night markets to understand what people like.
Your first impression of Hong Kong?
It’s a complicated question because there’s so much happening here. I like to say it’s the New York of Asia. People are positive, active and efficient. And for a chef it’s great because you can get ingredients from all over the world here.
What restaurants surprised you the most in Hong Kong? I didn’t know
I didn’t know what cha chaan tengs (Hong Kong diners) were before, but the thing is I came to see how important they are. People are very busy here. So in the morning it’s nice to see them all gathering in those kind of restaurants and having simple foods like pineapple bun sandwiches.
What’s your favourite dish to order here?
My favourite food is sweet-and-sour pork but, funnily, the pineapple is my least favourite part of that dish.
Tell us about the dish you created for the short film for the Hong Kong Tatler Best Restaurants guide.
I made a dish of pumpkin puree mixed with milk tea, with little tortellini filled with the puree. I paired it with Hokkaido sea urchin and French scallops from Brittany, and a little buckwheat. Hong Kong is so multicultural and that’s why I had influences from everywhere for this dish: Italian, French, Japanese, Cantonese.
The 2017 Hong Kong Tatler Best Restaurants guide is available now at newsstands and bookshops
This article was originally published in the December 2016 issue of Hong Kong Tatler