PLACE a meal in front of Mr Vincent Shaw and he is likely to notice the plate before the food. Woe betide the host who offers chipped china; as the general manager of Waterford Wedgwood, Mr Shaw believes fine tableware and crystal are as essential to presentation as a sprig of parsley on fish pie. ''I'm very much interested in food and drink,'' he said. ''As I have to promote our core products and how they are used, it's a happy conjunction.'' Mr Shaw's interest in food was nurtured from a child. His mother was a keen and experimental cook. ''I was unaware at the time how unusual this was,'' he said. ''My mother plundered all the classic cook books and often came up with three-course feasts.'' When he went to Hull University, Mr Shaw carried on the family tradition. His dinner parties gained him many friends and defied the common perception of students existing on baked beans. ''Most courses involved alcohol of some kind,'' he said. ''Stews made with English bitter were my speciality.'' The chance to eat out only became possible when Mr Shaw moved to London and took a job involving travel to Amsterdam and Brussels. But, since coming to Hongkong, he has found eating an education. ''It was all new to me. I had to break down a number of preconceptions, especially where Japanese raw fish was concerned.'' Despite much week-time entertaining, the Shaws still like to have friends for meals at home. Four people is the usual number for Sunday lunches, with a side table set up for the children. ''I like to set the table with silver, linen napery and flowers and it is important to provide the right-sized plates for the quantity of food,'' he said. The starter is a grapefruit and prawn cocktail with a whisky dressing. Pan-fried chicken and a veloute sauce, accompanied by a medley of mixed vegetables, replaces the hearty stews. Mr Shaw's choice of dessert is individual sticky toffee puddings served with a toffee pecan sauce. STICKY TOFFEE PUDDINGS (serves 8) 75 grams butter 150 g castor sugar 2 eggs, beaten 175 g self-raising flour 175 g stoned dates, chopped 170 ml boiling water 15 tsp vanilla essence 2 tablespoons coffee essence 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda TOFFEE PECAN SAUCE 175 g soft brown sugar 100 g butter 6 tablespoons cream 50 g pecan nuts, chopped Pre-heat the oven to 180 ? Celsius. Place dates in a bowl and pour over boiling water. Add the vanilla and coffee essences, and bicarbonate of soda and stir. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten eggs, stirring well between each addition. Carefully fold in the flour with a metal spoon. Add the dates, including the water. Grease eight 7.5-cm ramekin dishes and divide the mixture between them. Place on a tray in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes. When cooked, leave for five minutes then run a knife around the edge of the ramekins and turn out on to a serving dish. To make the sauce, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. To serve, pre-heat the grill to its highest setting, pour the sauce over the puddings and cook under the grill for eight minutes until the sauce isbubbling. Serve with cream.