Willy Trullas Moreno

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 December, 2010, 12:00am

How did your adventure in China begin? 'I was working as the executive chef of Greater China for Spanish wine company Torres in 2007, doing wine dinners in cities like Hong Kong, Beijing, Guangzhou, Taipei and Shanghai, where I met a Japanese restaurateur. In early 2008, we opened El Willy [a Spanish restaurant in Shanghai]. Then in the summer of 2009, my now partners at Fofo approached me to do something fun in Hong Kong, so I'm here once every five weeks or so, evolving the menu with Fofo chef Alex Fargas. In Shanghai, I'm also a partner at El Coctel, a lounge bar with Japanese-style bartending - which is super fun. I have another izakaya-style eatery in the works in Shanghai; it'll soft open [this month].'

What is your approach to Spanish food now that you are based in Asia? 'For me, it's about representing what Spain is now. There is the traditional folkloric side which is tapas; but I also want to reflect what young chefs are doing - Spain is a modern country and in Barcelona, there is a lot of exciting contemporary cuisine happening. As for cooking in general, I'm about adaptation and showcasing fresh ingredients. Other than key items, which I import, I source locally for good-quality things that taste great, even if they are not Spanish. You get seasonality, you impact the environment less, you support the local community and it works well for costing.'

What food did you enjoy growing up in Barcelona? 'My [paternal] grandmother is great at cooking with game. She makes this delicious partridge and Brussels sprouts stew that is very Catalan. My other grandmother has German roots, so there was a lot of potato in her cooking. Her stew with potato, chanterelles and smoked bacon is great.'

You have an unusual style of kitchen wear - colourful jackets and espadrilles. What is the story behind that? 'It's an extension of my personality - if you come to Shanghai, you'll see that the decor of El Willy is funky, a little crazy and psychedelic. I design my own jackets, going to the public market to buy patterns, then going to a tailor to create the patchwork jackets. I have a few that I've painted designs on myself. I enjoy playing with dishes and flavours, so why not have fun with everything else, too?'

What are your favourite places to eat in Hong Kong? 'I am just getting to know the city - my trips are a bit short. So far, I think Fook Lam Moon is a great place for char siu and Robuchon's [Le Salon de The] is wonderful for French pastries and desserts. One of our regular clients is taking me to Jacky Yu's [Xi Yan] the next time I'm in town; I'm looking forward to that.'