While others in Hong Kong gloomily describe the wholesome fast food scene as a lost cause, Blair Sweet prefers to talk about a gap in the market for organic restaurants and truly healthy alternatives. There are a few health food stores, acknowledges Sweet, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. 'But there's no place to go where you can get organically grown flour, stone ground flour, vegetables grown without pesticides and only natural fertilisers.' His new two-storey Central restaurant, The Source of Health, aims to cater to organically conscious Hong Kong. With the rise in awareness of healthier living, he feels the restaurant should find a ready market. Even if foods aren't 100 per cent organic, customers can be sure very little has been injected with preservatives for a longer shelf life, dyed to improve colour, processed to make natural ingredients go further, or tampered with in some other commercially expedient way. The restaurant will be divided into a takeaway section on the ground floor and a seating deli area upstairs. The food will be served buffet style, which is some way from the fine dining that Sweet first envisaged. 'This is much more broad market,' he concedes. There will also be an area for books and pamphlets on nutrition, the environment and related topics. 'We don't want to force it down people's throats but we want it to be available for people to look at,' Sweet says. Unlike the dishes he sent out during his eight months as a chef at Dan Ryan's, Sweet's efforts will include three or four hot vegetarian choices and organic salads. The food will be cooked at a commissary in Aberdeen. The menu includes soups, sauces, vegetable stews, pasta, organic pizza, granola bars, pastries, brownies, muffins, cookies and pound cakes, among others. It's not necessarily fat or calorie free. 'We don't frown on the use of oils and sweets,' Sweet says. 'But we use honey and malt, for instance, which has some nutritional value, instead of refined sugar.' The takeaway/bakery section will sell organic coffee, tea, espresso, and fruit juices, among others. Many of the products, including the infused oils, balsamic vinegars, and sauces will be imported from Australia and California. Nutritionally acceptable technology will be used to extend shelf life where necessary. The process involves sealing cooked food while it is still hot and bringing down the temperature from 70 degrees Celsius, which is where the danger zone for bacterial growth begins, to one degree Celsius in 60 to 90 minutes. The key to the success of the new venture, Sweet says, is Karmau Shiu, who owns the largest organic farm in Hong Kong and is a major investor in the restaurant. Project manager is David Cowan, who also has an interest in Delaney's. With a firm commitment to bio-dynamic farming in Hong Kong and China, Shiu is ideally placed to supply the restaurant with the necessary fresh produce. 'It's all about having a whole natural ecosystem, about taking a big-picture look at planting and harvesting, about working with the rhythms of nature,' Sweet explains. In addition, Shiu has an established natural foodstuffs import business, which the restaurant will take advantage of. The goal, Sweet says, is to be 100 per cent organic. 'But at this point I haven't been able to fulfil that totally.It's just not possible to get all things organic all the time.' When the restaurant opens at the end of next month, Sweet should have resolved some of the more pressing issues. He will have decided, for instance, on the to-go containers, which will ideally be both insulating and environmentally friendly. 'We may end up opting for foil-lined paper containers,' he says. But he's having a hard time coming up with an alternative for styrofoam cups. The ideal would be a reusable cup but acknowledges that it is unlikely customers will take to carrying a cup around with them all day, even if he convinces them it's a designer accessory. The easier part is coming up with a design that mirrors modern healthy thinking. More likely to be the culinary equivalent of the New Age Shop than a hangout for people who look like they live close to nature, there will be little measure given to the old image of roots, shoots, stringy hair or ethnic backpacks. The Source will have high-style broken tile mosaics on the columns, terrazzo and red oak timber floors and lots of warm colours. Hemp paper will be used wherever possible, as will renewable woods. But Sweet is going hi-tech on the in-store gadgets. One of the drawcards is a machine called the Pace Jet, which he describes as 'basically a fancy blender'. Among other blends, it turns out all-natural whipped soy milk and fruit sorbets that Sweet hopes will attract the health-conscious clientele from the fitness centre next door. The Source and the fitness centre are, in fact, whipping up their own cosy relationship to serve each other's customers. In the absence of an in-house cafe at the six-storey gym, The Source is expected to cater to the post-workout crowd. There will be special meal deals and discounts for club members. It's this kind of solid business sense, rather than pure ideology, that underpins the experimental concept. Being absolutely true to the organic concept is difficult, Sweet admits in the months running up to the opening of the restaurant on the corner of Wellington and D'Aguilar streets. He says he's torn between the practical business necessities and the new venture's core philosophy. 'We have to be viable as well. We have to give the market things that have some semblance of what people are used to.' 'The bottom line,' he adds, 'is that if it don't taste good, they ain't coming back.'