Jamie Oliver to stay away from the opening of his Hong Kong restaurant
British chef wants publicity to be on the team and the food, rather than himself, but will visit the city later
Hold tight, Jamie Oliver fans. The opening of his planned Hong Kong outlet is still officially set for a vague "summer 2014" date but the cheeky chappy chef is unlikely to be there.
The 200-seat, 12,155 sq ft Jamie's Italian restaurant is on Tang Lung Street in Causeway Bay, sandwiched between Hennessy Road and Times Square.
Marcos Georgiou, the international chef director for the Jamie's Italian chain and his other brands, said Oliver did not like to be at restaurant openings as he felt his appearance would detract from the work of the team that opened the venue. He preferred the publicity focus to be on the restaurant rather than himself, Georgiou said.
But he reassured fans that Oliver would eventually show up in the flesh. "He loves the culture, loves the food. He is over the moon to be opening in Hong Kong. He's been out here and experienced the culture," the South African chef said.
Watch: Promotion video for Jamie's Italian Hong Kong
Georgiou has opened some 27 restaurants for Oliver in Britain and nine internationally: three in Australia, two in Dubai and one each in Dublin, Istanbul, Singapore and St Petersburg.
He is in Hong Kong to recruit staff for the restaurant.
The menu is 98 per cent finalised but still has to be approved by Oliver. Signature dishes were likely to include a prawn linguini dish that "is a big seller in every market", Georgiou said.
Also on the line-up are a spaghetti bolognaise, the Jamie Oliver burger and a prosciutto salad made with 12-month-old ham, rocket, radicchio and a light lemony dressing.
The highlight dessert is a tiramisu based on a recipe by Gennaro Contaldo, Oliver's mentor.
All the pasta that is not gluten-free will be freshly made at the restaurant every day, including spaghetti and lasagne sheets. Georgiou said the chain's restaurants made most dishes from scratch and typically churned out 50kg to 75kg of pasta a day.
The Hong Kong branch will be using mostly the same suppliers as the chain does internationally.
Can fans of the British superstar expect more Jamie's Italian restaurants in Hong Kong or mainland China?
William Lyon, chief executive of local restaurant operator Big Cat Group, which owns the rights to roll out the restaurants, said that for the moment the company was focusing on "nailing" the opening of this first restaurant.
"We have to get it right for the Hong Kong market first to have the strongest possible platform on which to grow," Lyon said.