Uwe Opocensky Krug Room Mandarin Grill, 2/FMandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road, Central, 28254014/28254020 For the Mandarin Oriental's executive chef Uwe Opocensky - the man responsible for the innovative cuisine in the hotel's Krug Room private dining facility, and for the evolving menu in the Mandarin Grill - a Michelin guide to Hong Kong's restaurants cannot come too soon. 'With any guide you can always argue what is right and what is wrong, but for me the red book is still the bible. If you were an actor and you had a chance to win an Oscar you would be stupid to say no. I think it's the biggest honour we can achieve,' he says. Opocensky got his first experience of how Michelin-starred restaurants operate straight after his apprenticeship, when he joined the staff of the famous Bremerhaven fish restaurant Natusch, in Germany. 'We got some really amazing fish there and I learned a lot. Then I worked [in London] for Anton Mosimann, who had two stars at the Dorchester for a very long time. But when I worked for him, for eight years, it was at his private members' club. I joined him at the tender age of 21 and at 23 I was head chef already. I stayed until I was 29,' he recalls. While still working for Mosimann he took time out to work in Paris for Alain Ducasse, who had inspired him, but says that the experience that really changed him was working for six months at Spain's triple Michelin starred elBulli restaurant with Ferran Adria - probably the most influential chef of his generation and the polar opposite of Ducasse in his cooking philosophy. By the time he applied for the elBulli opportunity in 2006, he was working in Hong Kong for the Shangri-La group at the Aberdeen Marina Club and had to take six months unpaid leave. The elBulli position was unsalaried, but the experience, he says, was priceless. Three weeks into his stint he was invited to join Adria's creative team working on the new menu, and was able to learn the principles and practices behind his radical laboratory-based approach to cooking and presentation. 'After completing six months you are part of the family and they will welcome you back anytime. I went back last year, just for a few days. I can't afford to go for longer, but after six months I think you can understand where Ferran Adria comes from. I would never put myself on the same level as him, but I know the way he thinks and I understand what he does. Now I can go for a few days and pick up on the new things they have invented. They're very open about it, which is the most fantastic thing. Nothing is hidden. He is one of the most special persons in the world,' he says. Adria's influence is apparent in such Krug Room creations as Opocensky's stone baked potatoes, beetroot caviar and black cod, and also in the way he develops his menus. The Mandarin Grill menu is still a little more conservative, but Opocensky says there is a willingness at the hotel to do things differently and he plans to gradually take it in a more adventurous direction. 'Originally, I felt Hong Kong people were very conservative in a lot of things, especially food. Now I feel that there is the scope for doing more so long as you stick with the right balance. 'Every Saturday morning I have my own creative team here and hopefully we come up with at least one new dish. We've been doing that for the past 10 months so we have quite a big repertoire of dishes using different techniques and methods,' he says. The local dining scene, he believes, will benefit considerably from the publication of a red guide. 'You have such a high calibre of chefs and a clientele that can appreciate it. I definitely would welcome it. Hopefully it will happen, and if it happens I think it's a great thing for Hong Kong.'