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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I just post whatever I feel! My posts basically consist of food, sneakers and my kids!
Haha, I am definitely guilty of checking my phone too much. I confess, I’m addicted to 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.
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.
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.
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.
I would say around 150 pairs and my favourite right now are the Air Max and the TN Tiger Orange.
Ronin, Yardbird, Ho Lee Fook, BELON, Le Garcon Saigon, Kin’s Kitchen, Celebrity Cuisine, Lung King Heen, Rhoda and of course Duddell’s.
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.