Hong Kong chefs share their hopes for the new year

Each new year brings new hopes, dreams and resolutions. Stephenie Gee hears from eight chefs from some of Hong Kong’s top establishments as they share theirs

Agustin Balbi, Ando

“The Michelin Guide launched in my home country for the first time last year, and I’m very proud and happy to have been invited by the government to be present at such a historical moment for Argentinian gastronomy.

In 2024, I would definitely like to spend more time discovering new ingredients. I just found bird nest fern, a very delicious vegetable that I had never tried. This kind of discovery makes me very excited. Another thing I’d like to do is keep developing the team with more talents from around the world, enriching the culture of Ando. We are a restaurant that pays a lot of attention to the team as a whole and being able to evolve even further will be amazing.

All in, you can expect an even better Ando. And hopefully, as more and more talented people join the team, our spectrum becomes wider than ever to create something really special. We’ll also continue our commitment to the community with More Good, cooking 160 meals for people in need once a month, as well as supporting them daily. And, of course, lose weight! Though that I can’t promise, ha ha.”

Jacob Zuidervliet, Belon

“One of the highlights this past year was the opportunity to work with chef Eric Robertson from Restaurant Pearl Morissette on a four-hands collaboration. It was a heartfelt reunion after 10 years and being in the kitchen together not only reignited fond memories, but also allowed us to share and inspire each other with the techniques and precision we have honed over the years.

Now, in 2024, I would love to delve deeper into Cantonese cuisine. From dim sum to siu mei and the vibrant dai pai dong food culture, there is much more for me to discover. Despite living in Hong Kong for nearly seven years, I feel as though I have only scratched the surface. The rich traditions and historical depth of Cantonese cuisine in Hong Kong is exciting.”

Alvin Leung, Bo Innovation

“We celebrated our 20th anniversary in 2023, and to mark the occasion, we launched a special 10-course ‘Arts of Asia’ menu, inspired by different cultural aspects of Hong Kong with each course representing a different art form or tradition. The menu launch set the tone for what we want to achieve with Bo Innovation this year: to promote fine dining in a more accessible way to our customers. I want to emphasise providing value while maintaining the other essential standards. It will be challenging to change diners’ perception of fine dining, but it’s something I want to do because diners nowadays are becoming more economical and don’t want things to be so formal.”

Valerio Giuseppe Mandile, Grissini

“Looking back, we completed quite a variety of successful events last year and received a lot of excellent feedback which we are very proud of. It wouldn’t have been possible to achieve all this without the Grissini team, so I’m very thankful for their support.

In 2024, I’ll keep challenging myself to create unique menus and dishes to inspire diners and to maintain consistency across all our products and services. I’ll continue to work on bringing unique or exclusive Italian ingredients to Hong Kong, especially Grissini.”

Fai Choi, Mora

“My highlight of 2023 would definitely be joining Mora. I’ve been working in the Western fine dining world my whole career. Now I’m in an extremely fortunate position where I can cook in respect to my own identity and cultural background, while using the skills and techniques I have learnt throughout the years in Western kitchens. Since joining Mora, I’ve been cooking what I love to cook in the kitchen and what I love to eat on the other side of the restaurant. I guess as a chef, there’s nothing more wonderful than this.

This year, I wish to learn more about soy products and Chinese cuisine. Even after almost a year of experimenting with different techniques and recipes, I still find myself learning something new every day. It’s an unknown territory for me and there’s just so much to explore. Like last month, we were trying different ways to ferment tofu. It’s a trial-and-error process but the results are, fortunately, promising.”

Kenichi Fujimoto, Sushi Fujimoto

“The past year went by so fast. It was very busy for our small team at Sushi Fujimoto, but we’re very happy to have met a lot of great guests and worked with fantastic media. Every single moment has allowed me to grow as a person and as a chef.

This year, first things first, I want to bring happiness to my guests through my food. Then, to try and build up my team more and more so that we can challenge ourselves to do more things, like more new dishes, new menus and more events to keep up the momentum of Sushi Fujimoto.”

Hideaki Sato, Ta Vie

“The highlight of my career in 2023 was witnessing the joy and satisfaction on the faces of our new and repeat customers as they savoured our meticulously crafted dishes. The positive feedback and rave reviews we received from diners and food critics alike further validated our efforts and fuelled our passion.

In the exciting year of 2024, I have set several resolutions. First and foremost, I aim to push the boundaries of culinary innovation and creativity. I want to experiment with new flavours, techniques and ingredients to surprise and delight our diners. I will strive to maintain the highest standards of quality, ensuring every dish that leaves our kitchen is a masterpiece. I’m also committed to sourcing the finest and freshest ingredients from Japan and around the world for our diners whenever possible. One of my personal challenges for this year is to continue exploring sustainable and ethical practices in the culinary world. I want to reduce our environmental footprint by implementing more eco-friendly initiatives, such as minimising food waste and adopting sustainable sourcing methods. I believe that it is crucial for chefs to take an active role in promoting sustainability in the industry.”

Giovanni Galeota, The Dining Room

“Consistency is of utmost importance to me. Having worked in Asia for several years, I’ve always faced challenges in effectively conveying my culinary philosophy to the staff and ensuring consistent execution of my vision in both the dishes and the service. My experience at Rosewood has been a game-changer and with the invaluable support of my team, I’ve been able to establish a harmonious balance that guarantees the level of consistency I strive for in my culinary creations. So, thank you!

In 2024, my main goal is to continue providing exceptional dining experiences to the best of my ability. I’m currently working on an exciting new project for The Dining Room, which involves creating a sensory experience that introduces a wider variety of dishes and recipes that reflect both the unique flavours of my region and the cherished memories of my childhood. In terms of professional challenges, my objective is to establish close collaborations with the local community to identify and partner with local farmers who align with my culinary ideals. By sourcing ingredients from these farmers, I aim to support
the local community while ensuring the highest quality and freshness of the ingredients used in my cooking.”

Also see: Sam Aisbett brings creative fine dining to Ho Chi Minh City with Akuna

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