'I’m opening a submarine!’ Jamie Oliver struggles with Cantonese as he announces Hong Kong restaurant
Delighted fans give celebrity chef full marks for effort
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Hong Kong fans of British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver were left in stitches after the television star proved his cooking is better than his Cantonese, when he announced 'I will open an amazing Italian submarine' in the city.
In a light-hearted YouTube video, the chef stumbled through some tricky Cantonese vocabulary, promising his fans the restaurant would be "very slippery", before collapsing with the giggles.
The video has received more than 35,000 hits since it was posted on Tuesday.
Watch: Promotion video for Jamie's Italian Hong Kong
Oliver, 38, has a string of restaurants in Britain, Australia, Dubai, Ireland, Russia, Turkey and Singapore. He is set to open the first Hong Kong branch of his “Jamie’s Italian” chain in Causeway Bay in the coming months.
His first attempt to say “Causeway Bay” in Cantonese, as he received some off-screen prompting, came out as “car crash”, according to a translation on YouTube, while his second attempt sounded like “bronze bed”.
The video nonetheless delighted local fans.
“Jamie Oliver speaks Cantonese! So funny!” wrote Christy Lui in one comment posted below the video, while others called him “adorable” and welcomed him to the city.
“Hong Kong people like your Cantonese! But they like you even better,” wrote Cheng Dai Hup.
Oliver’s first attempt to open a restaurant in Hong Kong fell through in 2009, before he switched Asian cities, opening an outlet in Singapore last July.
The new 200-seater restaurant, set up with local partner Big Cat Group, will be on the second floor of a new building at Tang Lung Street, home to a cluster of food and beverage outlets.
William Lyon, chief executive of Big Cat Group and of Jamie’s Italian (Hong Kong and China), said the restaurant would cost “millions of US dollars” to set up. The group also pledged that ingredients from the mainland would not be used unless they met the restaurant’s stringent standards and ingredients could be traced back to their source.
Lyon said the prices of the Hong Kong restaurant would be matched against the average level of spending in Britain, £20 (HK$260) to £22 a head.
“We don’t want to be seen as a fine-dining restaurant,” he said.
Oliver is known not only for his down-to-earth cooking style but also his Food Revolution campaign for real food and a healthy diet among school children in Britain and the United States.
Lyon, a former Jardine executive based in Hong Kong and Taiwan, said the Hong Kong branch would observe strict standards in food sourcing.
He said Hong Kong could get anything from the world, and imports of ingredients such as meat from Italy would be possible. He said the Singapore branch also imported many of its ingredients.
Asked whether ingredients would be sourced from the mainland – known for its food safety scandals – Lyon did not rule out the possibility. But he said: “We would apply the same standard to the rest of the world without compromising.”
Only organic products, those farmed under a high-welfare system and on a free-range basis or under equivalent local standards would be used, he added.