There are only a few days left to catch Iron Chef Marc Forgione’s pop-up menu at Lily & Bloom, running until March 26. Michelin-starred Forgione, son of culinary legend Larry Forgione, has a resume that chefs twice his senior would be envious of, including stints at New York’s Above, and France’s Le Pres D’Eugenie, Ferme aux Grives and Le Cuisine Minceur. The youngest ever “Iron Chef” has created five and seven-course menus at Lily & Bloom, bringing the best of his signature plates to Hong Kong. Working alongside newly appointed Executive Chef Chris Grare, a fellow American, Forgione is serving bold dishes like the Singaporean-inspired Chili Lobster with a side of Texas Toast, and the Pastrami Ribeye with pommes boulangère and a kosher pickle— a delicious tribute to the City That Never Sleeps. #legend speaks to the chef about his food, fungus and plans for the future.
You’re an American chef with strong international roots, how has that affected your cooking?
I was born and raised in New York City, but I consider New York the biggest melting pot in the world, which reflects heavily on the cuisine. I’d describe my style of cooking as being more New York than American because there are some pretty distinct international influences. For example, my tartare has a strong Asian influence and Singapore’s chilli crab inspired my lobster dish.
What’s the most exciting dish to look forward to on your menu and what was the inspiration behind it?
It’s a tough decision but probably the steak [Pastrami Ribeye]. I’ve really enjoyed combining a couple of iconic New York dishes and we serve it with the kosher pickle a la Katz’s Deli’s pastrami and rye – one of my favourite spots.
What’s the secret to your steak, can you tell us what makes it so special?
We actually cold smoke it. People are worried to mess with steak; chicken, pork and duck get smoked without a second thought but people are cautious about beef. My spice rub is a secret recipe but it involves a lot of black peppercorns. The sauerkraut is an integral part of the dish — it takes two weeks to create each batch. There’s nothing like real fermented sauerkraut.
How does the Hong Kong culinary scene relate to the one in New York?
They’re obviously vastly different but the values are similar. Both are cities that have embraced outside influence when it comes to their cuisine. We’ve been having a great time checking out the local spots.
What Hong Kong ingredients are you most excited to work with and why?
We’d love to have been able to get our hands on some hairy crab but we’ll have to save that for another visit. I picked up some bamboo fungus from the Gage Street Market so we’ll see what comes of that.
What’s your favourite Hong Kong food?
It’s tough to choose but Yat Lok’s roast goose is up there. It’s been great to eat authentic Chinese food. Even though I live in China Town in New York, it’s tough to get the real deal. Exploring Chinese regional cuisine has been fantastic.
You’re visiting over Hong Kong’s annual Art Week – are you an art lover yourself? Is there anyone you’re excited to see?
I love art so I’m excited to take it all in – I don’t have a particular agenda. The CJ Hendry exhibition looks pretty cool and I’ll be checking out Art Central.
What are you most looking forward to exploring in Hong Kong while you’re here?
In any city, I like to experience the local markets. I’m interested in checking out both the wet and dry markets, particularly looking at what local seafood is available. I’ve heard great things about the Lamma seafood scene so that’s on the agenda for once we wrap the event.
What are you most passionate about, outside the kitchen?
Playing the guitar and family. The life of a chef is rarely relaxing so I try and find balance, even for 20 minutes, every day. I’ll meditate, stretch, work out, anything that restores calm for a short while.
You’ve written books, starred on TV-shows and received numerous accolades and rave reviews, what is your next goal?
That’s easy — to put on a great experience for everybody at Lily & Bloom this week and, who knows, maybe open a restaurant in Hong Kong.