What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?
I always remember that cartoon “Little Chef “, in 1991, of a kid helping his mum in the family restaurant after school. You can watch it now on the internet “Le Petit Chef dessin animé”, in French.In fact, some of my other earliest memories surrounding food are from when I was nine years old, always watching my own mum cook for the whole family or party around Christmas and New Year.
Tell us a bit about your new summer menu at Cocotte…
For the new summer menu, I tried to diversify the dishes and give our customers a new range of dishes. Since I love Asian flavours just as much as French ones, I really wanted to focus more on moving forward with this melange. My main focus was to revisit traditional dishes and revamp them with interesting new ingredients that people aren’t so familiar with. For instance I took the classic asparagus salad and added ingredients such as pickled shimeji, quail eggs and porcini soil and created the upgrade; Asparagus Garden.Similarly, the Yellowtail Ceviche with all the Asian flavours and refreshing ponzu vinaigrette is a big hit. I also wanted to introduce caviar to the menu and chose the Petrossian caviar. The Petrossian is very light to the palate with a hint of hazelnut and is a good starting point for those who aren’t so familiar with caviar.
The Duck Legs is a memory from my childhood, my mother use to cook this dish for me and my brothers. I like to share memories of family dinners with our guests at Cocotte (and it’s now pretty much our bestseller!). The ‘From the Grill’ section is simply because during the hot Hong Kong summer, everybody loves deliciously grilled meat. As not everybody has a barbecue in Hong Kong, they come to Cocotte! Finally, the Bouillabaisse Marseillaise is a classic seafood soup with all the spices and flavours that go with it, I wanted people to feel as if they were in the southern French coast on holiday.
What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?
I guess it would be my mother because she cooked French, Asian and Eastern European food for all of us when we were kids. That’s why I love so many different cuisines and always strive to have different types of flavours in a menu yet always with a French essence.
Describe how you see your own culinary style and how it has evolved over the years…
I would say “adaptable”. I always have my bases but depending where I cook I always like to change it up a little bit. I try to know what my customer likes the most and use that to challenge myself to make dishes that will really leave a lasting impression and that customers will be excited to come back for. That’s why I talk to our guests during dinner at cocotte when I can.
What are your most indispensable ingredients?
Fresh is key – I use seasonal produce and work with what is available in Hong Kong.
What kind of experience do you aim to give guests at the restaurant?
A casual-chic experience that celebrates delicious seasonal dishes and leaves our guests wanting more. It’s our little slice of Paris in Hong Kong.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?
There are a few, but probably the first time I was made sous chef. I was so surprised and, honestly, I felt like I was jumping in at the deep end. I was one of the youngest in the kitchen at the time but the chef who trained me trusted me to be in charge of his kitchen, he knew how badly I wanted the role. Ultimately, throwing yourself in to the job is the best way to learn.
What’s next for you?
Well, my family has one French restaurant, one cocktail club and one high-end burger joint in New York, so my main focus is to keep up our standards and keep crafting new menus that keep us on the edge and that our guests love.
What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?
Cocotte! It’s has to be – I eat there every day! Honestly, it’s a tough one. I’ve been eating at Caprice, Le Dôme de Cristal and Upper Modern Bistro. I love Hong Kong’s high end restaurants but I love eating at small, local restaurants just as much.
Find out more about Petrous and Cocotte here |cocotte.hk