Food for thought

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 November, 2009, 12:00am

After leaving a lucrative law practice in Los Angeles, Alan Ho returned in 1991 to join Sociedade de Turismo e Divers?es de Macau (STDM) and take over from his late father, the brother of Stanley Ho Hung-sun, in the hospitality business.

His responsibilities later expanded to include the group's hotels and travel agencies. In 1994, he became executive director of Florinda Hotels International (Holdings) which owns five hotels in Macau, including the Grand Lisboa, and properties in Portugal and San Francisco.

Ho cites the evolution of the hotel industry as probably the single most important component to put Macau on the international tourist map. 'From the private sector, there has been an explosion of world-class casinos, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls with boutiques selling luxury brands,' he says.

His food and beverage foresight has raised the bar several levels in local dining.

In 2001, he pioneered the opening of Robuchon a Galera, featuring internationally renowned chef Joel Robuchon, which put Macau's dining scene up there with the best of them.

'At the time, most people told me it was foolhardy because Macau was not ready for it,' Ho says. 'Today, it is the only Western restaurant with three Michelin stars in Macau. The Lisboa Complex is the only complex in the world which houses three Michelin-starred restaurants - and one with a Michelin bib - under one roof.'

Still, one of the things he loves about Macau is its Macanese food. 'Since this type of cuisine is really a home cooking type of cuisine, each chef has a different version of the same dish, handed down from mother to daughter,' he says. 'This is what makes it interesting.

'As Macau modernises, how many descendants of these old Macanese families, with all these wonderful recipes, will want to be in the restaurant business? It remains to be seen.

'Cooking and running a restaurant is a demanding business. I guess there will always be some people with this type of passion, but a modern city also offers many attractive and easier alternatives to make a living. I expect there will be fewer of these wonderful Macanese restaurant as time goes by.'

Ho believes the completion of work on the Cotai Strip will give Macau an additional attraction. 'But of course this also means that China will have to support us, or else the overcapacity in casinos, hotel rooms and restaurants will drown us,' he says.