The real key to Jean-Georges Vongerichten's success is not the freshness of ingredients - which he stresses 'makes all the difference' - or the simple assertive flavours which he achieves by using vegetable and fruit essences and oils, vinaigrettes and broths. Nor is it a presentation of colour and texture which flirts with the eye, even though those qualities have made him one of the best chefs in the US. The key is his modest and down-to-earth demeanour and his willingness to share his success with his whole team, in this case Enrique Gatchlian, the chef de cuisine based in Vong Hong Kong, and Kerry Simon, who travels the world overseeing all of Jean-Georges' restaurants. In town to oversee his restaurant Vong on top of the Mandarin Hotel, Jean-Georges says he is planning a new restaurant in New York's SoHo district to be called Mercer Kitchen. This will be his seventh restaurant, not bad for someone from a rural area of Alsace in France who once aspired to cook for employees of his grandfather's coal business. Ever since Vong opened in September it has been fully booked day and night. His other restaurant in New York, the eponymous Jean-Georges in Trump Tower, has a three-month waiting list and was awarded four stars. 'You cannot fool people here - they know what freshness is so I get everything live,' says Jean-Georges, who cites the spiny lobster with Thai herbs as one of the best-selling dishes. The opening of Vong has also meant Jean-Georges' career has come full circle - he was the executive chef almost 15 years ago in the Mandarin, where Vong now stands but in its previous incarnation as the Pierrot. 'It feels great to be back. But it is now a bigger challenge for me.'