“My mum cooks family-style dishes like steamed fish and chicken. Her seasoning is complicated, very flavourful, not straight from a bottle. She mixes several ingredients together and I always ask her how to make her sauces. I like to eat and we always eat well, mostly at Chinese restaurants. “In 2003, I went to Dallas Baptist University [in the US] to study broadcasting communications and music business as a minor degree. I like listening to music on the radio, and I wanted to study broadcasting to become a radio host because I like to chat with people. When I was studying, I cooked for my roommates, many of them international students, and I invited them over to eat. This motivated me to become a chef.” What did you do after coming back to Hong Kong in 2009? “The economy wasn’t good; my salary was low working late nights in a restaurant, so I went into our family business. We manufacture corporate uniforms for export to Europe and Africa, and make clothes for some fashion brands. But it wasn’t for me. “I thought of going into photography or cooking, and decided to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in 2013, just before I turned 30. My parents didn’t want me to go into this field, but I used my own money to pay for tuition. I like to eat Chinese cuisine, but it’s a tougher environment, and the salary would be lower than in Western fine dining.” How do they teach you at Le Cordon Bleu? “They demonstrate a dish and then you take notes. There is an ingredient list in English and French but they don’t give you the recipe. You have to listen to the chefs describe the steps or watch how they make the dish and take notes. Ten people could take notes, and their dishes could all come out differently. “After graduating I did an internship at three-Michelin-starred Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. It was quite tough, and because I was new, I peeled potatoes, extracted crabmeat , and threw out the garbage, but I could see the standard, in terms of food quality and hygiene.” Where did you go after returning to Hong Kong? “In the summer of 2014 I got a job at Pierre [the restaurant helmed by Pierre Gagnaire] in the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. It was challenging, standing for 16 or 17 hours a day. There were two of us preparing garnishes and we still couldn’t get all the work done. I worked there for two months and wondered if fine dining was for me. “Then I went to Épure [in Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon]. Chef Nicolas [Boutin] is very relaxed, says hi to everyone, and he doesn’t get mad. Many of the staff came from top restaurants so they taught me many things they don’t teach at Le Cordon Bleu, like how I needed a proper knife to cut ingredients.” Where did you go after that? “A friend who also studied at Le Cordon Bleu had a private kitchen called Les Saveurs , in Wan Chai, serving French cuisine, so I helped him out. It was eye-opening and hard work because there were three of us serving 30 guests and we had to wash dishes, too. “We worked from 10am to 3am. Sometimes, the young people didn’t show up for work, or the dishwasher said they weren’t coming in that day. On top of that, French cuisine is very hard because it’s all done from scratch. I worked there for a year. “In 2018, an investor wanted to open a fine-dining restaurant called Fools and Magicians in Central and hired me as head chef. It was my first time developing a menu and I could see my weaknesses, like desserts. I needed to hire chefs with expertise and listen to their feedback, so I had a lot to learn. After one and a half years, the restaurant had financial issues and shut down.” Why did you go to Copenhagen in 2019? “I wanted to work at a restaurant called Studio to learn Nordic cuisine because reading about it in a book was hard to understand. I was excited when Studio accepted me because the head chef used to work at Noma [a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Copenhagen], but when I got there, that chef was gone and replaced with a British one who had worked for Heston Blumenthal. But the manager was very nice and got me a job at Kadeau. “The philosophy at Kadeau is very simple: whatever is in season, or fresh, we use it. It is like Japanese cuisine, where they use a lot of seafood. In the summer, they harvest vegetables and herbs to prepare for the winter season, when fresh vegetables are scarce. “They pickle and ferment vegetables and herbs in vinegar, oil or syrup, and the refrigerator is filled with lots of jars like a laboratory. They already know in July what they are going to cook in December using last summer’s fermented ingredients. It’s long-term thinking but you need lots of space to store things, which is what we don’t have in Hong Kong.” What happened when you came back in September 2019? “I came back when the protests were happening, and my father’s gall bladder was threatening to rupture. Doctors didn’t want to operate because he had other health problems. I got married in April 2020. Soon after the wedding, my father’s gall bladder burst and he was sent to hospital. The doctor kept calling me to see my father in case he didn’t make it, so I had to quit the restaurant. Luckily, after three months my dad recovered. “Then Covid-19 prevented me from returning to Copenhagen. Some customers here contacted me, asking me to cook in their homes. After one or two times, I realised I could do some refined cooking with Nordic flavours and through word of mouth I got really busy. But I also need one or two people to help me; some of my dishes are quite technical to prepare, so if no one can help me, I can’t take on the catering job.” What kind of dishes do you cook? “Brittany blue lobster with fermented strawberry syrup and bordelaise sauce made with bone marrow. I also add lobster shells, kombu and vinegar to do a reduction. This is Nordic style and I cook with Japanese ingredients that are fresh and of high quality. Another is fermented pomelo with white asparagus, pickled elderflower, and trout caviar with a sauce of fermented elderflower vinegar, kombu and clam dashi .” Have you used local herbs and flowers? “After coming back from Copenhagen, I started reading books on what kinds of herbs grow in Hong Kong. My mother likes to buy white sandalwood flowers to give the flat a floral scent. I wondered if I could use them in cooking and some books showed me that I could. “I bought a few hundred dollars’ worth and experimented. The flower works well as an oil and syrup. When guests tried it, they said it was fragrant and asked if it was perfume. They said it reminded them of the elderly women who sell these flowers on the street. “In northern Europe, they will pickle and ferment fig leaves and make an oil from them. I had a friend who had fig trees and he gave me some leaves and I made an oil. I shuck fresh oysters and put fermented tomato sorbet on top with a dash of fig leaf oil. When you eat it as an amuse-bouche, it whets the appetite and also cleanses your palate.” Like what you read? Look for more food and drink in SCMP Post Magazine .