Diner’s Diary

Hong Kong chefs to celebrate life of one of their own, Pascal Breant, after Frenchman’s death in accident

52-year-old chef-owner of Alchemy, where guests dined in the dark, remembered as passionate, selfless, and dedicated to quality. Event will raise money to support his widow and son

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 January, 2017, 1:43pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 5:04pm

Dedicated. Uncompromising. Amazing. That was Pascal Breant, says a former Hong Kong food industry colleague. Selfless was how his son described the chef and restaurateur who died suddenly this month, and whose life friends, colleagues and customers are being invited to celebrate at a charity buffet.

Organised by the Hong Kong Chefs Association, the stand-up buffet at Watermark in Central on February 8 will be prepared by chefs who worked under Breant and the Hong Kong culinary national team, with ingredients sponsored by industry partners. All profits will go to a fund set up for his widow, Jackie Chan, and son Nicolas, 18.

Breant, 52, died on January 8 after falling down an escalator at Shun Tak Ferry terminal in Sheung Wan. He was reportedly found unconscious and rushed to Ruttonjee Hospital, where he was confirmed dead shortly afterwards.

The Frenchman was the chef/owner at Alchemy in Central, part of the French Creations restaurant group, where diners ate gourmet dishes in complete darkness. The restaurant opened in 2014.

“He only looked to put smiles on customers’ faces,” says Nicolas. “He’s selfless – he never asks for anything in return.”

Game for a bird: Hong Kong French chef Pascal Breant's quail casserole recipe

Former colleague Angelo McDonnell recalls Breant’s dedication. “He was amazing, incredible heart, one of the best guys I worked with. He was dedicated to quality, uncompromising, no short cuts,” says McDonnell, chief culinary officer at Café Deco Group, which hired Breant to open Watermark above the Star Ferry Pier in 2007.

“He trained people well. He wouldn’t buy fish fillets – he would buy the whole fish and teach the guys under him how to fillet it properly. A lot of chefs can be tough, but he was fair.”

McDonnell says he first met Breant when he cooked at Le Parisien at IFC. “It had the best bistro food in Hong Kong. I got to know him there and we became friends. When we had an opportunity with Watermark we hired him.”

Breant’s passion for cooking began in Normandy, France, where he was born. As a boy he helped peel potatoes in an uncle’s bakery and by the age of eight wanted to be a baker.

However, as he saw other culinary techniques, Breant was more interested in becoming a chef.

“If he wanted to cook for us, he would explain each dish and how to make it,” Nicolas explains. “And he has tons of pictures of his food. He would insist on taking pictures of each new dish before they went to the guest to keep as a record.”

Something new: blind dates at Alchemy in the Dark

One of Breant’s signature dishes was pressed duck, created at the three-Michelin-star Tour d’Argent in Paris, where he had also worked. A young fatty duck, preferably from Rouen in Normandy, is partially roasted, the liver is ground, and then the legs and breast are removed. The rest of the meat, bones and skin are placed in a special press that extracts duck blood and other juices from the carcass. The extract is then thickened and flavoured with the duck liver, butter and cognac to make a sauce.

Nicolas will never forget a breakfast he had with his father the day before he died.

“Friday night he messaged me, asking if I wanted to have breakfast with him. Seeing that message brought a smile to my face,” he says. “We had a simple breakfast but it was a cherished father-son moment. Breakfast with him was rare because of his long working hours.”

Anyone wishing to attend the buffet at the Watermark should WhatsApp Anita Cheng on 9302 6483 before February 5 stating their name and the number of people in their party. Those attending are asked to donate HK$500 each (cash only). Anyone who cannot attend but wishes to donate to the fund for Breant’s family can send cheques, payable to Nicolas-Michel Breant, to 1/F, B1 Parkview Court, I Lyttelton Road, Hong Kong.