Did you know you wanted to be a chef when you were young? "In 2008, I graduated from George Washington University [in the United States] where I studied economics, then came back to Hong Kong and started working as an auditor at Hutchison Whampoa. It was not until 2013 that I realised this was not for me - what I was really interested in was food and restaurants. I would observe the servers and watch other people eating. My fiancée said I should just follow my dream, so I quit my job and started working as a server in a Western restaurant here, to reassure myself this was what I wanted to do. I made a lot of friends there. On the day I left, one regular customer gave me a cake. I was really touched."
Where did you do your chef training? "I decided to enrol in the French Culinary Institute, now called International Culinary Centre, in New York City. I did the French culinary arts programme and restaurant management there. I learned how to [handle] a knife and not cut myself and I worked as an apprentice at Bouley, in Tribeca. I was lucky because they were short-staffed so I had to learn to work fast without cutting corners."
How did you come up with the idea of Test Kitchen? "[In 2014] I joined Dinner Lab [in New York], where every night I was working with different guest chefs, hearing their stories, trying their food, learning how to work with different people. It was inspiring, too, because it wasn't just about cooking, but turning a space into your restaurant, catering to that chef and letting the chef tell their story and showcase their food. I learned patience, how to make perfect cuts, and I pushed myself every day. Even school didn't push me that hard, and I paid for that. In school you learn the fundamentals, from sauces to cooking proteins, but here it was the real deal, cooking for people who are paying for dinner, and you get immediate feedback whether or not the dinner was good."
Why is now the right time for Test Kitchen? "I feel I've done enough homework and that I have the tools to do it. People here are very adventurous but chefs here - compared to those in the US - may not get as many opportunities to showcase what they are passionate about. I want to give them a platform to do exactly what they want to do, and I'll provide them with the resources they need to do the best they can with the food. I feel like every chef has a story and I want people to hear it."
What did your parents think about you quitting your job to enter the restaurant business? "They tried to persuade me to stay in auditing and have a stable income. When you look at my mom, she's very traditional, down-to-earth and a perfectionist. When I was young she was very protective of me, her only child, but she's also very open. She would let me speak my mind, and it was she who convinced my dad this was something they had to let me do."
What do you like to cook at home? "For Christmas I had 10 of my closest friends over and made some home-cooked dishes like bouillabaisse and cote de boeuf, served with several bottles of wine. I make ramen when I'm hungry at 3am. These days I don't cook for my wife as much, but I get a lot of inspiration from eating out. When we were in California we got into The French Laundry and it just happened they were celebrating their 20th anniversary. I remember every dish in the 20-course dinner we ate. In Hong Kong my favourite restaurant is Yardbird. I like being there, not just eating the food, but the conversations
I have with the staff, the feeling of being home. For simple French food I like Bistro du Vin - they serve honest food at fair prices. I go to Mak's Noodle once a week and get a bowl of their beef tendon noodles, and at Foo Lum I have the tip of the stomach that's stir-fried and texturally delicious."