Flavours of Life

Taste is defined as a flavour and feeling produced by a food or drink. But it’s so much more than that Rosewood Hotel Group Vice President of Food and Beverage, Ivan Suardi and his team of talented chefs and mixologists of Rosewood Hong Kong, Fabio Nompleggio, Li Chi Wai, Arkadiusz Rybak and Manav Tuli share what taste means to them, the memories it elicits and what they hope to bring to Hong Kong’s food and beverage landscape. Natasha Gillespie-Wong finds out more.

  On Li- Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde slate in rose gold, on Suardi- Toric Quantième Perpétuel Rétrograde in red gold, on Nompleggio-Tonda GT steel black, on Rybak-  Tondagraph GT rose gold blue, on Tuli- Kalpagraph Chronomètre Titanium with green dial all from Parmigiani Fleurier

What does the food and drink we consume say about us as a society? The processes involved in preparing, serving and sharing certain foods may appear simple, but they often carry important social, religious and cultural significance. Recipes can develop over time, but what stays the same is the extent to which each country or community’s unique cuisine can reflect its individual history, lifestyle, values, and beliefs. The chefs indulge in classic Hennessy X.O while keeping up with the times in their Parmigiani Fleurier timepieces.

Ivan Suardi | Group VP, Food and Beverage

With 22 years’ experience in the food and beverage industry across in Hong Kong, Taipei, Manila, Almaty, Jakarta and Dubai, Suardi has conceptualised new restaurants and supported the technical and culinary aspects of luxury hotel food and beverage projects.

On Suardi- Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Quantième Perpétuel Rétrograde in red gold, Hennessy X.O Cognac

What is a taste/food that…

Reminds you of Hong Kong
Definitely yum cha, dim sum, the tea houses. They are the essence of Hong Kong and provide more than just food, they are second homes for the people of Hong Kong.

Reminds you of your childhood
Fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, fresh bread straight out of the oven. It reminds me of my mother’s garden. The freshness of the produce is the most important thing, it’s what matters, I grew up with simple food, simple ingredients but of a very high quality. The best olive oil, the best tomatoes, the best mozzarella. Going to the market with my mother as a child is a fond memory, getting to know how to select the best produce. 

Reminds you of your family
Sunday lunch was always a thing for my family. Every sunday there was a risotto, it was a must-serve. My father was the trained chef of the family, so I would help him out as a child. We did a lot together, then when I was at hotel school I began to learn to cook properly and it became a treat for me to cook something a little bit different for the family. 

Reminds you of your latest cooking experience
I barbeque a lot at home, I enjoy cooking at home for friends. I’ve been trying a lot of different techniques, experimenting with style. I like to always have a concept, I don’t just cook. I need to have a clear idea- whether it’s Italian, French, Chinese. There is always thought behind everything from what drinks I serve to what produce I choose. 

Represents your personality
I’m a very moody person so it really depends on my mood. If I’m super happy then I cook more, with colourful ingredients. If not, I make something basic. To cook or write menus you have to be inspired. You have to clear your mind so right now I don’t feel particularly inspired so it would be something simple.

You eat on your best days
Tomato and mozzarella. At home in Italy, I would drive 60km to get the best mozzarella because that’s where they still make it with the buffalo milk. For me it’s the simple things, but for my birthday last year we put together a white truffle dinner and with it in season, you can’t go wrong. There is really nothing that tastes quite like truffles. I have also had an experience foraging for them myself, so it is extra rewarding when you get out in nature and find your own food. 

You strongly dislike
Durian and stinky tofu are two things that I cannot stand, so they would probably be around on a bad day. I dislike a few things, just like anybody, but I still eat them sometimes. But durian and stinky tofu, never. 

You associate with celebration
Celebration food for me is always Christmas. Back home in Italy we had Christmas lunch, its a big open house party that we invite all our family and friends to. Beef wellington is always something that I cook.I’vebeen doing it for years so thats something that takes a lot of time and effort so it’s perfect for a celebration. 

Fabio Nompleggio | Executive Sous Chef at Asaya Kitchen

Nompleggio is a seasoned chef, with experience in Italy and Dubai. He is new to Hong Kong and ready to hone his skills in the crown jewel of Victoria Dockside.

On Nompleggio- Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda GT steel black

What is a taste/food that…

Reminds you of Hong Kong
Hong Kong showcases great food, it’s a place that I think a lot of people have preconceived ideas about. I have only just got here, but I always had an image of what Hong Kong would be like, but it’s so much more. I can’t name just one food. 

Reminds you of home
My town is between the sea and terroir so we have a lot of fresh veggies, fruit and of course seafood. Basil reminds me of my mum, because we used to grow it outside our house, so basil is the herb I have a special place for. My father would make his own wine, we had our own olive oil, so that’s how I got educated in organic products and making the most out of them. That’s how I developed my sense of taste- knowing what is quality, knowing what the nuances of the flavours are and how to handle these little treasures, that’s very important. Food is about comfort, nothing fancy, just good fresh ingredients. 

Reminds you of your first cooking experience
When I was an apprentice, kitchens were very basic. Nowadays, there are machines and you can learn from everybody in the kitchen but back then you just learnt from your one chef. Classic lemon sauce and it kept splitting. Now with experience my lemon sauce is of  great standard.

Reminds you of your greatest adventure
Mango. The first time I travelled in Asia, the flavours of the fruits really impacted me. I grew up with an excellent standard of fruit, but fruit in Asia is a whole different experience, it was a very nice surprise. 

Represents your personality
Food should be humble, that’s how you show off its character, its charm. Food deserves to be presented in a way that is beautiful. 

Reminds you of your best day
Whenever I go home, I ask my mother to get some caviar. But for me food comes from the heart, so anything somebody makes especially for you. At my family gatherings, its normally roasted or baked goods-  food itself is a celebration. Roasted chicken
I would treat myself to a restaurant for a celebration. 

Reminds you of your worst day
Normally when I’m upset I don’t eat much. My comfort food is probably pizza but the problem again is that because of my work hours- pizza places are closed when i finish. So instead I go for a kebab. Kebabs I associate with comfort and relief.

Arkadiusz Rybak | Director of Bars

Working in France and the UK prior to his move to Hong Kong, Rybak brings his sound knowledge of aroma and signature flair to The Darkside.

On Rybak- Parmigiani Fleurier Tondagraph GT rose gold blue, Hennessy X.O Cognac

What is your interpretation of ‘A Taste of the Times’?
Fragrance, smell and taste evoke memories and take you back. We recall childhood memories by smell and by taste. I actually had the experience two days ago- I was at The Darkside and a member of my team was wearing a new fragrance. It reminded me of my grandma so I just stopped, and memories of comfort and good times came back and those few seconds changed my whole mood. It’s a little bit tricky but I try to play with smell and  taste to help kickstart memories for my guests. It’s a wonderful way to share experiences and bring fond memories back.

What is a taste/drink that…

…Reminds you of your childhood?
When I was a kid, I was addicted to chocolate. I could actually eat a whole bar of chocolate or marzipan all by myself, it was my first addiction. Today I use those flavours in my cocktails. I mix lemon with marzipan, vanilla, chocolate. The lemon hint is the refreshing note from the sweetness. 

Reminds you of your first experience behind a bar?
Cuba Libre. It was when I was working in Greece and I made the biggest mistake possible, so it was not only my first experience but was also my first failure. It’s actually a very simple drink- rum, coke and lime, but at the time, I was a little nervous so I read the recipe and I put all the ingredients into the shaker, including the coke. After a few seconds it exploded and everybody was looking at me, it was everywhere, all over my shirt and everything. So that was one of my silly moments but a good lesson.

Represents your personality?
I think I would be a food actually. I would be chocolate because I love it so much. But my likes and dislikes change throughout the years, sometimes even with the seasons and environment. Travelling and living in different countries, I see I used to eat, for example, I used to live in New York, and in Asia, my diet is totally different. In Poland, I used to eat a lot of fat food and that was the time when I was younger because it’s cold and to survive the winter of Poland. But here, no, we don’t need. So all the environment has a big influence on the diet and it has been proved by science and history, back to the Greeks, to the Romans and the Egyptians.

Represents your current mood?
Two things come to mind. One is a home recipe- a sour cherry soup. We eat that in the summertime, cold. The iced sour cherry soup is perfect for the warm weather. But it’s me for the whole year and that’s what I try to do here sometimes — because cherry here is very expensive – and give the reason cherry here is ripe for the winter time, but in summer time in Poland. So what we did with my grandpa is to preserve to have the soup for the whole year of action. And that’s very common. People will preserve staffs to make it available for the whole year.

Is timeless?  
Martinis. The way they are presented has changed from first generation to our generation but they are small adjustments. Why? Because the human palette has developed. The martini made in the 19th century is completely different from the drinks of today – different techniques, different flavors. People are always looking for new flavors and I think that’s the biggest challenge nowadays. It’s always good to go back to the old school to remind you where you come from. It’s the basis of everything, I would say. 

Reminds you of your greatest adventure? 
I have two actually. One of them is Oysters, the other a caiprinha. Basically I went travelling to Australia and Brazil and Argentina with my friend. We did some island hopping and happened upon an oyster farm. There was one gentleman who looked after the oysters and who tests the first oyster from each batch. He let us try one and the flavour was very creamy and very umami. It was an amazing balance of acidic and sweet and not like anything I had had before in my life. When I had it in Brazil, it was totally different to any other I had had overseas. When you are in the country of the origin of the drink, it hasn’t been altered to any tastes other than the original, traditional Brazilian taste. It is much much sweeter, because Brazilian people love sweet things. Brazilians, they love things ten times sweeter than anybody else. I was quite shocked about how their cake can be that rich and how their drinks can be that sweet. I like sweet and I like chocolate but even for me, it was a bit too much. 

Reminds you of your best day 
The first thing that comes to mind is my grandma’s apple crumble. It was very simple, but I remember the icing sugar sprinkled on top and the ice cream on the side so clearly. I think what the tongue memorizes is something we take from home, something made especially for you, for certain times or occasions. We have home recipes from my great grandparents that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Flavours are a bit like fashion in that what’s old always come back as something new and bring with it memories. They are same same but different though, not exactly the same but very very similar. I’m aiming now to bring back flavours associated with old Hong Kong, like salted lemon. I’m working on putting that into a drink so that people that enjoy the nostalgia.

Li Chi Wai | Chinese Executive Chef, The Legacy House

Chef Li previously with MGM Macau and MGM Cotai was born and bred in Hong Kong. Drawing inspiration from the seemingly endless flavour combinations Chinese food offers, he showcases his understanding and appreciation of refined Cantonese cuisine, highlighting dishes from the Shunde region of Guangdong.

On Li- Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde slate in rose gold

What is a taste/food that…

Reminds you of Hong Kong
I think for Hong Kong people food is always a treat. They like to explore, but simple, home-cooking will always bring the most comfort so for me, the local bakeries are very special.

Reminds you of your family
Fried radish cake- I grew up eating very simple, very traditional food. Things that members of my family would make by hand, so even now when I cook, I compare it to what I ate as a child. I used to help out in the kitchen making desserts, so now I try to recreate the traditional food form then but add a modern twist. 

Reminds you of your most recent cooking experience
Flavour and presentation requirements are much higher nowadays and there is more of an emphasis on health. So to make things healthier some traditional ingredients have had to change. For me, the challenge was creating wok hei without the use of pig fat. [‘wok hei’ literally translates as ‘breath of a wok’, referring to the flavour and tastes imparted by a hot wok on food during stir frying. It is often used as a measure of a Chinese chef’s skill.] Using simple ingredients but then adding a little something extra or unexpected can really change a whole dish. So recently I’ve started adding fresh milk into dishes and people go ‘oh won’t that change the flavour?’ But it doesn’t, it just helps to enhance flavours. 

Reminds you of celebration
Chinese pastries. They remind me of Chinese New Year when the whole family is together and helping prepare a big meal. The pastries were always something I helped my dad with as a child so I still do that now, my family are not too keen on my less traditional versions so I stick to the original recipes. Some dishes look very basic when they are served but behind the scenes a lot of work has gone into it. 

Reminds you of your greatest adventure
Rice was something that really stuck with me, because of course we ate a lot of rice in Hong Kong but it can be cooked in so many different ways overseas that I had never seen before. For example, In Japan there’s sushi, in some places it’s steamed, fried or boiled differently to how we do it. Overseas, I learnt different techniques and different uses for ingredients, so I have taken a lot of inspiration from other chefs. Some ingredients are considered lucky in other countries so I like to hear the stories of why and learn how to make the most out of them. I think food is all about improvement and progression. Cooking is all about cooperation. Some ingredients may not be great on their own, but mixed with this or that, the flavour profile can change completely, so it really is all about experimenting and trying new things. 

Is timeless
Something that has never been bad is fried rice. Food is all about comfort. Taste reminds you of different experiences and you don’t even know it at the time. I don’t like to say I don’t like to eat certain foods, because I think every ingredient has the potential to be good. It all depends on how it’s prepared so if I don’t like the taste of something I always try and think how I could improve it. 

Manav Tuli | Chef de Cuisine, Chaat

Beginning his career in the southern state of Kerala, Tuli discovered his passion for food alchemy in luxury hotels across India and Mauritius. He was then invited to work at London’s legendary Chutney Mary restaurant and in 2019, reopen the highly acclaimed Tamarind, a Michelin starred establishment.

On Tuli- Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpagraph Chronomètre Titanium with green dial

What is a taste/food that…

Reminds you of Hong Kong
Raj kachori, our specialty here at Chaat. Raj means royal and the Rosewood is hotel royalty, a top notch brand. The dish has so many textures and layers, it is everyone’s favorite. From the people to frequent street vendors to the people to dine in 5* hotels, it is a bombast of flavours in your mouth. It has so many textures. I don’t think any dish matches this one in complexity- all the umami effect in one dish. Growing up where I am from, its nickname was the atom bomb which is what drew me to it in the first place.

Represents your personality
Again, Raj Kachori describes my whole personality. I’m a firm believer that everybody has a lot of different faces. You have a face for your profession, you have a face for your spouse, you have a face for your child, your personal life. You have different faces and you keep those faces as a hand of cards and wherever we are, we put on the appropriate face. I think this particular dish has all the faces in one place, similar to me having a lot of faces but all in one body. My complexity and humour is reflected in the spicy and sweet. Ups and downs make up life and this dish has a lot of ups and downs too. If you are sad, this dish will lift you. If you are happy this is the perfect celebration. 

Represents your current mood
Right now I am tamarind. I’ve had a lovely morning, I had my makeup done for the first time in my life. So I’m in a bit of an excitable, naughty mood, like the tanginess of tamarind.

Reminds you of your family
Anything from a chaat stall. Every time we went out and had food on the street with my mum and dad. There are different versions all over India, the street version of raj kachori is 5 times bigger than what we do here. I would never finish it and my dad would always ask me ‘are you sure?’ and I always said yes and then he would end up having to finish it for me, but I don’t think he was very upset about it.

Reminds you of your greatest adventure
Mustard, because it is something that is not valued much in Indian cuisine, but everybody uses it. But it is never the star. In the north it’s an oil, in the East it’s pickled or a mustard sauce called kasundi, in the South mustard seeds, and the West use all three. It really adds a punch to every dish and a flavour profile that is unmatched. So if you take it out of any dish, it won’t be the same. I think if you took mustard out of India, a lot of dishes would die off. It elevates a lot of dishes and that’s why it makes me think of adventure, because going on adventures elevates you as a person.

Is timeless?
Raj kachori, from chaat stalls. Wherever you go in India, it will always be there. There will be different variations regionally, but at the root, it’s the same dish. Sweet, sour, spicy, crunchy- all at the same time. There’s a certain amount of refinement and balance that goes into this dish. 

Brings you comfort
Daal is something that I cannot survive without. If you go to any Indian house, a wedding or any celebration there will always be lentils, in some form or other. They’re so comforting for me.
After eating at fancy restaurants or just out for a few days I will always want to eat lentils. When I go home, I want a little rice and some simple lentils- daal. I think lentils bring us home. No matter where you go, to get everything back on track we have lentils, like a rubix cube that you reset for somebody else to play with. You can always fight another day when you have daal. 

Parmigiani Fleurier
Founded in 1996 in Fleurier by Michel Parmigiani, the brand has a fully integrated watchmaking production facilities that ensures independence and unique creative freedom. Parmigiani Fleurier timepieces are the labour of a lifetime commanding the utmost respect, in harmony with watchmaking traditions. 

Hennessy X.O
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How to enjoy: Enjoy neat, on the rocks, with a dash of water, in long drinks or refined cocktails

Photography / Ricky Lo
Photography Assistants / Alston Chan, Kelvin Sim, Jason Li
Videography / Lewis Lau
Make-up / Sapphire Shen
Hair / Zenki Lau

In this Story: #dining / #watches & #jewellery