How does it feel to be named Asia's Best Female Chef for 2015? "I'm happy, surprised and honoured all rolled into one. I didn't plan to be the best female chef in Asia - I just love doing what I do, so to be rewarded for my efforts and for doing something I love, is overwhelming. Having grown up in Hong Kong and been educated in the West, I feel my work is infused with a variety of culinary influences and I am honoured that the industry experts voting on this award appreciate and recognise my efforts."
You started out in advertising and once owned a design firm - why did you cross over into the restaurant business? "As a designer, I always felt there was something missing but that gap was filled when I went with two friends to do a basic course at Le Cordon Bleu in Bangkok - when it finished I wanted to do more. Armed with a Grand Diplome I was lucky to work at Michelin-starred [now closed] Cépage, in Hong Kong. Food is a great medium for expressing yourself - it's also very liberating. Having a design background has helped me think conceptually and to pay attention to details - colour and texture."
What are your impressions of the Hong Kong food scene? "The scene here is vibrant, eclectic and extremely competitive. It also changes at the blink of an eye. Food in the city is becoming more refined, with an emphasis on luxury. There are still a lot of home-operated restaurants and noodle shops to keep the balance but I think moving to a more refined setting is especially good for tourists, who may not want to sit on a dirty chair at an outdoor noodle place."
What's the best part of your job? "I have a lot of fun and get a lot of satisfaction from combining ingredients to create different flavours. I experiment a lot. For me, cooking is a harmony of art, craft and science. At Tate I fuse French and Japanese cooking styles but I'm moving towards other Asian influences. I studied [for a degree in graphic communications] at New York University and love the American way of thinking about food - there are no rules and there are so many cultures and influences. People are not afraid to mix, say, Thai food with Mexican. In Hong Kong, I love walking around the wet markets. On my recent winter menu at Tate, I've created a dish that I love - aged mandarin sea bass with lobster orange sauce and fennel pollen. The sea bass is flown in fresh daily from Japan. Food to me has a soul. It must be fresh. Last year, I launched Butler. It's a bespoke catering service that brings a unique theme and menu to events. There are no boundaries to my creativity."
What's your next step? "I don't want to expand although I might get a bigger kitchen. But I want to keep the dining space small [Tate seats 26]. I like to keep things intimate for guests."