Extended lunch the start of a long love affair
Six years ago, Daniel Schneersohn, who grew up in Paris, became an investor in Chez Patrick Restaurant, now a small chain. Little did he know at the time that it would result in him giving up a successful career in IT to focus full time on his passion for food and wine, particularly that from his home country.
What took you from IT to managing director of a restaurant group?
I met Patrick Goubier, the executive chef of Chez Patrick Restaurant, about 10 years ago. It was one of those long lunches when you are still drinking wine at 5pm and the chef joins you. When I found out Patrick was not the restaurant owner I said he was crazy and that I was sure I could find investors because I had previously invested in restaurants in Hong Kong and Macau, but he wasn't ready. Things changed and, in 2006, Chez Patrick Restaurant opened. It was meant to be just one restaurant and I was just one of the investors, but I ended up becoming more and more involved over time, although I was still working in IT. Just over a year ago, I decided to say goodbye to technology as a business and dedicate myself to developing the Chez Patrick brand.
What makes you a foodie?
The discovery of new gastronomic experiences, foods, wines and restaurants is something I have always enjoyed. My last holiday in France was spent travelling from one supplier to the next, and trying as many restaurants as possible. If I am there in the summer I visit the market every day, despite the children getting bored, as there is so much on offer. In some ways you could say I am obsessed by food and wine; I live to eat and drink. It could be a religion if I thought about it.
What are your favourite cuisines?
I eat Asian food several times a week as I enjoy the cuisines of Asia. I also have a strong preference for French food. I have become more French since living in Hong Kong. I think it took living away from France to discover my Frenchness. I certainly know a lot more about French food and wine since being here.
How often do you eat out?
Monday through Thursday it would normally be every evening and on the weekends at least once, probably for lunch. I try to eat somewhere new at least once a week. Eating out is about discovery, but it is more about enjoyment and conversation over great food and wine.
Where do you like to dine?
St George at Hullett House; I really like it and have been back several times. Chef Philippe Orrico is doing a great job. For a less fancy option I like The Principal, and Madam Sixty Ate, which does some interesting dishes. I have also been revisiting traditional French places that have been around for some time, such as Gaddi's, to understand the market better. Take souffles, for example. Traditionally, they are not served in fine-dining restaurants, but are popular with diners in Hong Kong. So we introduced souffles to the menu two months ago.
Do you think food always tastes better in its country of origin?
I can understand why people say that but it is not true for me. In Hong Kong you have great French food and great Italian food, especially now. The dining scene has come a long way in the past six years. Some products don't work outside their home environment, especially wine. I have a friend who tried a wine in Sicily and had some sent to Hong Kong, and was disappointed, saying, 'But it tasted so good there.'
What else keeps you busy?
I recently started a food and beverage committee at the French Chamber of Commerce which is quite dear to me. We want to share knowledge, lobby for change and create leverage. We will begin launching initiatives in September. Many will be industry-wide; for example, promoting alfresco dining and outdoor seating licences. [In this respect], Hong Kong looks pathetic in comparison to other jurisdictions such as Singapore or even Macau.