Chef Dan Hong is taking over Duddell's for just two nights - Hashtag Legend

#culture /dining


Chef Dan Hong is taking over Duddell's for just two nights

Jan 12, 2018

Legendary chef Dan Hong will be in Hong Kong for two nights next week

Dan Hong is many things to many people. Chef, mentor, father, husband, chef, television personality, author, sneaker god, Instagrammer – the list goes on. Born in Sydney to Vietnamese parents (his mother, by the way, is incredible and her story is worth checking out), Hong is the very best of Australia: diverse, unbridled and a little bit mad.

When it comes to food, Australia is interesting because it’s not inhibited by the same traditions as other countries. There is no generations-old rulebook of how food should be cooked, so chefs are free to experiment, modernise and innovate without reproach. Hong is a shining example of this. Australian-Vietnamese, he has become the face of modern Cantonese food with his playful (and always) packed Sydney restaurants, Ms G’s (an ode to his beloved MSG) and Mr. Wong.

He’s at the forefront of a new generation of chefs, ones that are reclaiming their own heritages and borrowing from others. In Hong Kong, you can get a sense of his style at Ho Lee Fook and Le Garçon Saigon. Hong worked with Jowett Yu of Ho Lee Fook and Bao La of Le Garçon Saigon, and his influence can be felt throughout the two restaurants. It goes beyond the technical excellence and the top-quality ingredients into something less tangible: a playful, almost irreverent spirit.

Hong is known for his playful, modern Cantonese food

When he’s not in his kitchens, you can find him hosting television shows like The Chefs’ Line and #Shelfie, travelling with his young family, and shopping for new kicks. And, of course, he documents it all on his Instagram, @Hongsta_gram. His account is so popular, there are some people who know him as a sneakerhead first, and Australia’s most popular chef second. Just search #hongsneakers and you’ll see why.  

Hong will be in town next week for Duddell’s inaugural ‘Chefs-in-Residence’ programme. The four-part series will showcase the diaspora of Chinese cooking, highlighting how the cuisine has evolved in new cultures around the world. Scheduled throughout the year to align with the seasons, each of the four chefs will take-over the dining room for up to three nights, crafting a once-in-a-lifetime menu.

We spoke to him ahead of his visit to talk celebrity, Cantonese food and his favourite Instagram accounts.

How did an Australian-Vietnamese chef fall in love with Cantonese food?

Chinese food is part of the multiculturalism of Australia, so I’ve always loved it. And as young chefs, we always went out for supper after a busy service and 90% of the time, it was Chinese food we ate.  In the early years of my career, I worked in European kitchens so on our days off, we’d eat Chinese food.

In what ways are you developing the cuisine and bringing it forward?

Most Chinese restaurants in Australia don’t use the best produce. I like to celebrate Australian produce and incorporate it in Cantonese food, as well as using modern European techniques I learnt along the way. I was never trained in Cantonese cooking so there aren’t any rules for me.

How did the Duddell’s collaboration come about, and what are you most excited about?

I was approached by the team at Duddell’s to do this collaboration. I thought it was a great idea because Hong Kong has always been an inspiration for me and anything that promotes the evolution of Chinese cuisine, I’m all for.

The Duddell's dining room, Hong will be taking it over next week for two nights only

How do you feel about the concept of the celebrity chef? Would you call yourself one?

I think it’s great because it gets everyone more interested in eating good food, but it definitely glorifies the industry. Being a chef isn’t easy and it takes years of passion and dedication. I definitely would not call myself one.

You’ve got 50,000 Instagram followers—does that ever just blow your mind?

I just post whatever I feel! My posts basically consist of food, sneakers and my kids!

Do you get social media fatigue?

Haha, I am definitely guilty of checking my phone too much.  I confess, I’m addicted to Instagram!

What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you on Instagram?

Actually, a few years ago, BuzzFeed did an article on me and my Instagram account and about the sneakers I have. From that article alone, I gained about 3,000 followers.

What are your favourite Instagram accounts to follow?

My friend Josh Niland @mrniland who owns St Peter restaurant in Sydney and does amazing things with seafood, @fit_shortie_eats - a fruitarian couple who travel the world to discover and eat rare tropical fruits and @m_tengoku who eats at all the best and hardest to book restaurants in Japan.

Inside Mr. Wong, Hong's beloved Sydney institution

You have television programmes, cooking shows, and of course your restaurants – which element is the most fun for you?

Definitely working at my restaurants. I love seeing a busy dining room with customers having a great time eating and drinking! I also love working with my chefs and getting the best out of them.

When and how did your sneaker obsession come about?

I first started seriously collecting in 2002. Growing up in the 90’s I was a kid that had Nikes and Reeboks, so I guess it was all about nostalgia, seeing retro models like the Air Max 90 Infrared and Air Jordans. It got really crazy around 2006-2007.

How many pairs do you own, and which is your favourite right now?

I would say around 150 pairs and my favourite right now are the Air Max and the TN Tiger Orange.

You’ve got a few disciples in Hong Kong, so I know you visit frequently. What are some of the most exciting restaurants in town for you?

Ronin, Yardbird, Ho Lee Fook, BELON, Le Garcon Saigon, Kin’s Kitchen, Celebrity Cuisine, Lung King Heen, Rhoda  and of course Duddell’s.

What can we expect to see next?

I take every day at a time!

Dan Hong will be preparing a seven-course dinner at Duddell’s from 16 – 17 January, 2018. For tickets and more information, head to TicketFlap.

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Story Told by

Sarah Engstrand

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