Jamie Oliver makes flying visit to Hong Kong to announce second restaurant

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 March, 2015, 5:54pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 March, 2015, 12:27pm

Only eight months after the launch of his first Jamie’s Italian in Hong Kong, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver announced that he’ll open a second branch, in Harbour City, in late May or early June.

Oliver, who is in Hong Kong for just 24 hours, revealed the news to a crowd of enthusiastic journalists at Jamie’s Italian in Causeway Bay.

After the press conference, he spent more than an hour working the room, talking to investors and meeting diners, many of whom were surprised by the chef’s presence.

Although Oliver’s arrival in Hong Kong hadn’t been announced, some of the guests obviously knew in advance of his arrival, and they brought copies of his cookbooks for him to sign.

The chef is working with the local company, the Big Cat Group, which – so far – has Jamie’s Italian as its only restaurant.

“When you have restaurants in another country, it’s a bit like giving your baby away,” says Oliver. “You want to give our baby to someone you trust. We are protective [of the brand] and choose the right partners. We [open restaurants] at a speed that’s appropriate; we don’t dream of global domination.” 

There are 51 branches of the restaurant worldwide, with 37 in the UK, as well as Dubai, Australia, Sweden and Turkey. 

Jamie’s Italian, Oliver says, is “all about love and comfort food. It’s beautiful [food] but accessible and not elitist, and it’s good value. The heartbeat of the restaurant is the pasta section; [in Hong Kong] we make about 500 portions of pasta each day.” 

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Oliver, who arrived in town last night, was also in the city to promote his healthy-eating Food Revolution campaign. He posed with local schoolchildren who are part of Food Revolution, a programme in which the chef visits schools to teach children about healthy cooking and eating habits.

Jamie's Italian first opened its doors on July 29 last year, in a 200-seat, 12,155 sq ft space on Tang Lung Street in Causeway Bay, sandwiched between Hennessy Road and Times Square.

However, much to the disappointment of his fans, the cheeky, boyish chef did not attend the opening.

His business partner said at the time that Oliver felt his appearance would detract from the work of the team that opened the venue. The chef also wanted the publicity to focus on the food and the restaurant, rather than himself.

Watch: Jamie Oliver speaks Cantonese in first HK promotional video

READ MORE: First review - When Jamie Oliver opened doors to Jamie’s Italian in Hong Kong

But fellow British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who opened his Hong Kong restaurant Bread Street Kitchen later in 2014, thought differently.

"At least I'm here, I came to my opening, right?" he was quoted by CNBC as saying shortly after the launch in September. "If you're going to open a restaurant in Hong Kong at least turn up." 

Oliver, star of the Naked Chef show, who opened the first Jamie's Italian in Oxford, Britain, in 2008, had in 2009 planned a Hong Kong outlet as his first venture outside his home country.

A year later, however, the plan fell through. In 2011, Jamie's Italian opened its first outlet outside Britain in Dubai's Festival City.

Jamie's Italian in Hong Kong has garnered generally positive reviews, particularly for its house-made pasta, though some critics have noted that the food can be a hit and miss affair.

With additional reporting by Lana Lam and Staff Reporters