Ask the Foodie: Mark Peaker
Mark Peaker loves art so much he left a career in banking to become a gallery owner. Two years ago, with a partner, he opened Hong Kong Island's largest contemporary art gallery, 3812 Contemporary Art Projects. He is also an avid foodie, part-time restaurant reviewer, and enjoys holding dinner parties.
What do you like most about hosting dinner parties?
A perfect evening means good friends, food, wine and conversation. I also enjoy the cooking, shopping for ingredients and making everything from scratch, including bread, which I make most weekends. While I regularly have people over for a casual meal, I have a larger dinner party for around 14 guests once every couple of months, with up to five courses. The highest accolade for me is when friends ask me to cook at their dinner parties.
What do you like to cook when entertaining?
I like French cuisine as I like to make sauces, which I start to prep two days in advance. I also enjoy cooking shellfish, for example scallops with a hazelnut and mint butter. A favourite is my tomato consommé; it takes several hundred tomatoes and days of preparation. I once served it with lavender-infused ice cubes - it was a big hit. I am also a big meat eater. I hold an annual beef and Bordeaux night. I cook a large joint of beef on the bone and lots of roast potatoes in lard and guests bring a bottle of Bordeaux.
Do you have a large dining room and kitchen?
I decided when I was renovating my home to have a large dining room. I also like setting the table with eclectic, often non-matching items and my grandmother's silver. The kitchen is OK in terms of size and I have two over-sized ovens and room to lay out plates for serving. Attention to detail in plating is important to me.
You write reviews for a well-known restaurant guide, tell us more.
I have been doing it for about four years and visit up to 20 places in Hong Kong and Macau each year. The reviews include comments on service, which is very important, especially at high-end restaurants. Also the food has to live up to the hype - restaurants need repeat business.
Where are some of your favourite places to dine out?
I recently had one of the best meals for a long time at Belon in Macau. One of the highlights was sous-vide pigeon infused with roses. At Caprice the service and the food is perfect every time and the set menu is not expensive, especially given the quality. For Chinese food, The Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant - the chef is so passionate. I have taken Chinese friends who say it is the best meal they have ever had. Also Mak Siu Kee for traditional wonton noodles. A new discovery is Ming, serving Shanghainese, Sichuan and Cantonese food; it opened about four weeks ago. The owner will ask about your likes and dislikes and the chefs will create dishes just for you.
What tips would you give to rookie home cooks?
Butter is key to good cooking. Don't microwave. Laughter and food go so well together. Don't worry if it doesn't work out, any learning is about trial and error.