For the second year in a row, Taste of Hong Kong returned to Central Harbourfront for a long weekend of gastronomic fun, where the city’s tastemakers—both local and international— presented their creative dishes from 16 restaurants. Watch the above video for a taste of this year’s event.
Throughout the four days, the Hong Kong #TatlerTable returned this year with 22 sessions of interactive discussions with notable mavericks of food and drink, who shared with us their unique perspectives from the F&B industry. Below, We have put together some highlights from our sessions in a quick recap:
Richard Ekkebus of Amber
The culinary director of Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental has been involved with our Taste of Hong Kong video series featuring the best produce to be found in Kyushu, Japan. At the #TatlerTable, 10 lucky guests were treated to a special discussion where Ekkebus spoke about his journey to Fukuoka and Miyazaki while shucking some fresh Ebisu winter oysters to be enjoyed with a simple squeeze of lemon. He also reminisced about how far the restaurant has come over the years.
"When we started Amber 10 years ago we always wanted to be a fun restaurant, with our own style and stamp. But we got slated in the beginning. Hong Kong was very stereotypical at the time, and French restaurants were expected to be very traditional. We did not tick the boxes, and so we “failed” to meet some people’s expectations. But we have always kept our integrity and matured as a restaurant. We’ve been highly successful and we have reached our potential. We want to continue to tell our story. " - Richard Ekkebus
Females in Food
We had three special group sessions at the #TatlerTable this year, and the first brought together five women from the F&B industry—Vicky Lau of Tate, Lindsay Jang of Yardbird, Peggy Chan of Grassroots Pantry, Florence Dalia of Amber, and Victoria Chow of The Woods—to discuss their experiences as chefs and entrepreneurs.
"At the end of the day, the food and beverage industry is really hard work. Most people don’t make it. In Asia there’s definitely a stigma of it being an unglamorous profession, and some people would rather their daughters not work at all than in a restaurant. I think it’s up to us to change that perception. Hospitality is an art, and industry worth being in." —Lindsay Jang
"The purpose for us is to improve the cuisine, to find the right ingredients and discuss issues such as sustainability. We must focus on that and not who is female, or whether they are young or old. For us the most important thing to focus on is taking care of our environment, making sure we follow the seasons, and respect the ingredients."—Florence Dalia
"I feel like women are much more creative in the ways we handle situations and creating new ideas. If you look at what’s going on in the food and beverage scene, there are only a handful of women leading it and doing new things. In that way, we are even more special. I hope it helps push other women to go into this industry as well. "—Peggy Chan
"Sometimes, I see some women who have lost direction in life and it encourages me because I don’t want to be them. Those who think they must sit and look pretty and that’s it. We have to bring the social value back, not be afraid of being passionate and follow through with it."—Vicky Lau
"The bar industry in general has shifted from people getting drunk to a more art-focused, skill-focused and education-focused industry. It’s opened up the space to a lot more women. It’s less about dealing with drunk people but learning more about the skills that go behind creating great drinks."—Victoria Chow
Paul Lau of Tin Lung Heen
For four decades, chef Paul Lau of Tin Lung Heen has climbed the career ladder up from scrubbing floors to rising as the top man in an acclaimed Chinese kitchen. Sharing his journey of hardship and fun, he was keen to offer sage advice to newcomers.
"Fill up every moment of your free time with opportunities to practice and be analytical on how you can learn the most in the shortest period of time. In the Chinese kitchen one must learn to become well-rounded and good at everything from general cookery to barbecue to dim sum. You need to push yourself hard enough so you can learn them all in the shortest time possible. " - Paul Lau
Aaron Gillespie of 22 Ships
Chef Aaron Gillespie, an alumnus of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, moved to Hong Kong in 2016 to take on the executive chef role at 22 Ships and Ham & Sherry, both Jason Atherton’s outposts in collaboration with Jia Group. A fine-dining trained chef with experience in Australia and Dubai, chef Gillespie has a special interest ion the future of ‘casual fine dining’.
"More people are appreciating the casual setting with good music, a cuisine they can relate to and interaction with the chefs all rolled into one. As we see restaurants of this kind of concepts staying popular, it is crucial to know that the future should be along these lines. " - Aaron Gillespie
Matt Abergel of Yardbird
The chef-owner of Yardbird and Ronin drew quite a crowd, and he delivered—not only half an hour of witty and insightful tidbits about his journey to becoming a chef (including a law-skirting entry into the business in New York), but treats for all our #TatlerTable guests: Yardbird’s signature corn tempura and yuzu chilli chicken wings.
"I’m the son of a carpenter and the grandson of a carpenter, and being around all that raw material in life taught me a lot. The idea of sharpening a knife or a chisel was ingrained in my head from quite early on, and the philosophy of not having an ego—when you’re building furniture, you’re not doing it for yourself but for other people. And in the same way, Japanese food isn’t about the chef; it’s about the single product and trying to be better day-to-day. " - Matt Abergel
Eric Raty of Café Gray Deluxe
Returning to the #TatlerTable this year, the head chef of Café Gray Deluxe, winner of the Taste The World award at Taste of Hong Kong, chef Raty was keen to introduce a Nordic touch to chef Gray Kunz’s Hong Kong flagship at the Upper House. We were so impressed by Raty’s take on food that we voted him the winner in the Etihad Airways Taste The World initiative at Taste of Hong Kong—the decision was unanimous. At our #TatlerTable, Raty was enthusiastic to show us what else he had up his Scandinavian sleeves.
"People only focus on the special techniques from Nordic cuisines, but we would add Northern European ingredients such as sorrel, lingonberries and seabuckthorn into offerings at Café Gray Deluxe. Hong Kong is getting more taste of this area of Europe, and I feel that I have a mission to showcase it more. " - Eric Raty
Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery
The debonair brewmaster behind Brooklyn Brewery and the editor-in-chief of The Oxford Companion to Beer drew some of the largest crowds at the #TatlerTable thanks to his eloquent walkthrough of eight diverse beers and knowledge of the brew. His passion for debunking the myths behind the craft beer movement and dedication to improving the beer scene not just in America but internationally struck a nerve with our guests, and his dry sense of humour certainly made it a beer tasting to remember.
"The current mass market American beer doesn’t look, smell or taste like beer. Beer is not made from a huge amount of corn and rice and extracts! What we’re doing in craft beer is—yes we’re inventing some things—but in many ways way we are returning to the past of what American beer used to be: a vastly diverse drink with a lot of different flavours. We’re getting our culture back. In the late 1800s, Brooklyn had 48 breweries; they made 15% of all the beer in the US and we had the most diverse beer culture in the whole world. We have lost a lot of this and so I consider the craft beer movement part of the recovery of American beer." - Garrett Oliver
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