IT'S NOON AND a small crowd of uniformed greeters, valets and doormen are standing at the main entrance of the Four Seasons in Central, eager to welcome arrivals. Not that there are many - the hotel's soft opening isn't until the next day. A handful of people come and go through the large, airy lobby. But on the sixth floor, it's a different story. Caprice, the French restaurant, is buzzing as workmen add finishing touches to the decor and black-jacketed waiters and waitresses make their way tentatively around their new workplace. Other staff are settling in at the white-covered tables. They're also at work, but it's work most people wouldn't mind doing. They're here as tasters, ordering from the menu to give the waiting staff, chefs and cooks a chance to practise so everything runs smoothly when the restaurant opens on October 5. Despite the harbour view, the focus of the dining room is the open kitchen, where 25 cooks in white toques and jackets are working quietly. Among them are two Frenchmen: chef Vincent Thierry and pastry chef Douteau Ludovic, from the Michelin three-star Le Cinq at the hotel's sister property in Paris, the Georges V. Also coming from the Georges V are restaurant manager Jeremy Evrard and sommelier Cedric Billien. Thierry seems calm for a man who's getting ready to step into the culinary limelight. It's his first time leading his own kitchen brigade, and the standing of the Four Seasons means he has a reputation to uphold. Why would anybody leave a great job at a top restaurant in Paris for polluted, crowded Hong Kong? 'It's the challenge,' Thierry says. 'I was sous-chef at Le Cinq for six years. I made everything in that kitchen. The general manager [at the Georges V] proposed this job in Hong Kong and I said, 'Why not?' I wanted to do this for me.' The 33-year-old has worked at several other Michelin three-starred kitchens, including Taillevent in Paris, Les Crayeres in Reims, La Cote Saint Jacques in Burgundy and Le Buerehiesel in Strasbourg. 'It's very difficult,' Thierry says of coming to Hong Kong. 'It's my first time here, my English is not good, I don't know the ingredients, I don't know the guys as a team. 'For the moment, I'm a little lost because before I was at school or working for another chef, but now it's different. It's the first time I will prepare the menu and the presentations. Everybody has their own way, but now I want my way.' His way is still evolving. 'My style [of cooking] is not my personality. It's the first time I've worked for me. When I've worked for other chefs, it's not my style. Now I must find my style. I think it's classic French, not too designed, not too complicated. I prefer good ingredients and respect them - meat and fish with a good sauce that's not too strong. I don't like food to be heavy. I like light. Everything [on the menu] is new. There's just one dish similar to what I did in France.' Thierry isn't the first chef from a top restaurant who's been brought to Hong Kong - and he certainly won't be the last. In 1982, Paul Bocuse helped open Le Restaurant de France in what was the Regal Meridien (it closed in 1999 and the hotel is now the Regal Kowloon). Alain Ducasse, holder of nine Michelin stars - including two three-star establishments in Paris and Monaco - is the man behind Spoon at the InterContinental in Tsim Sha Tsui. Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who has several restaurants in his adopted home town of New York (which doesn't use the Michelin system), as well as outlets in Shanghai, Paris, New York and Houston, is the namesake of Vong at the Mandarin Oriental. It's rumoured that he's opening another restaurant in Hong Kong in the near future. There are also whispers that Nobu Matsuhisa will open a branch of his chic Nobu restaurants. William Mackay, vice-president and general manager at the Four Seasons Hong Kong, says that hiring Thierry from Le Cinq 'helps the credibility of a restaurant serving food that's rooted in French tradition, and attracts guests who see themselves as serious diners. Little effort or expense has been spared in the development of Caprice and its kitchen and I'm happy to say that Vincent jumped at the chance when it was discussed with him. He'd been at Le Cinq as the right hand of [chef] Philippe Legendre and was ready for his own opportunity. 'There's a potential downside with the Michelin tag intimidating people who simply want to enjoy excellent cooking, without the pretension or inaccessibility that a Michelin three-star pedigree might imply,' Mackay says. 'Much of this is an issue of perception rather than reality.' Thierry seems eager to adjust to his surroundings and to adapt traditionally heavy French food to the local taste for fresh, light dishes. He's even incorporating some local flavours. Foie gras, for instance, is served with mango chutney that has hints of ginger. And Ludovic uses Asian fruits in his rum baba. 'I'm sure that some less imaginative chefs from a Michelin-starred restaurant might be inclined to fly in ingredients, rather than investigate what's available locally,' Mackay says. 'They might also be inclined to cook what they're familiar with without trying to understand local tastes. Happily, Vincent and his colleagues have made great efforts to understand what people in Hong Kong like to eat. All that matters in the end is what's on the plate. If it gives sublime pleasure, represents fair value and is appropriately served without pretension, we'll run a successful restaurant.'