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Posts tagged ‘Jason Atherton’

Star Chefs on the Rise in Hong Kong

PG in Central (mid res)

Pierre Gagniere in Central, Hong Kong


[UPDATE: Chef Pierre Gagnaire’s will visit his Hong Kong restaurant from October 24th to 30th 2019 to Hong Kong to launch his autumn tasting menu. The five-course menu will be available for lunch and dinner from 24 to 30 October 2018 at HKD1,998 per person.]

Hong Kong is set for another influx of Western celebrity chefs as Yannick Alleno’s long awaited bistro, Terroir Parisien, is slated to open in Central this summer, Bjorn Frantzen has opened Frantzen’s Kitchen and Jean-Georges Vongerichten has returned to the city with Mercato. David Thompson and Wolfgang Puck are also thought to be searching for sites here. But Asian expansion doesn’t mean guaranteed success: Mario Batali’s Carnenvino has closed in Hong Kong, Gordon Ramsay shut his restaurant in Tokyo and both Guy Savoy and Jason Atherton shipped out of Singapore. So what makes some international restaurants thrive in foreign markets while others falter?

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Model Cooks

World's Best Female Chef Helena Rizzo

Helena Rizzo former World’s Best Female Chef

Food and models are not an obvious pairing. Rather than going together like crispy duck and plum sauce, the modelling industry is more likely to make you think of faddy diets or eating disorders. Yet these rarefied sylphs are moving from the catwalk to the kitchen.

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Model Foodies


World's Best Female Chef Helena Rizzo

Helena Rizzo, World’s Best Female Chef 2015

Food and models are not an obvious pairing. Rather than going together like crispy duck and plum sauce, the modelling industry is more likely to make you think of faddy diets or eating disorders. Yet these rarefied sylphs are moving from the catwalk to the kitchen.

British supermodel Jourdan Dunn regularly tweets pictures of dishes she’s cooked. Proving she has good (food) taste, Dunn also recently posted a picture of fried chicken she was about to tuck into at YardBird in Hong Kong. And the model has her own food show, Well Dunn, on You Tube where she cooks gutsy recipes like Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas.

Karlie Kloss, the US supermodel, is a cookie baking fanatic who learnt to read by following baking recipes with her grandmother and bought a Kitchenaid with her first modelling pay cheque. She sells Karlie’s Kookies – in partnership with Momofuku Milk Bar chef Christina Tosi – for charity.

The World’s Best Female Chef, Helena Rizzo, started out in modelling. Rizzo of Mani restaurant in Sao Paolo, number 36 on the World’s Best Restaurants list, became a model on leaving school. Though in an interview last year Rizzo said, “I wasn’t a supermodel, I was a mediocre model. Soon after I decided to go to Europe to learn more about cookery.”

Hemsley and Hemsley--(None)_A2

Jasmine Hemsley (right) with her sister Melissa

Modelling has led to a natural career progression for half British, half Filipino, Jasmine Hemsley. As one of the Hemsley & Hemsley duo, with her sister Melissa, she has produced the hugely popular Art of Eating Well cookbook as well as the Spiralizer (a utensil which turns vegetables into noodle or pasta like ribbons) and the trend for bone broth.

“You definitely have to look after yourself when working as a model – it’s all part of the job,” says Hemsley. “Photoshop and good lighting can’t always hide a night of no sleep or a bad diet.” Helmsley was fascinated by food and health and helped a few colleagues with their eating habits.

“My model colleagues couldn’t understand why I was eating ‘fattening’ butter or a fatty steak so became intrigued. The modelling work was going really well but my hobby on the side turned full time pretty quickly and since I was so passionate about it, it was an easy transition to make.”

The Hemsleys are adamant that healthy food should be delicious too. “We do not advocate calorie counting or cutting out entire food groups. There is a myth that fat is bad. Fat is an excellent source of energy that makes your meals satisfying and tasty.”


Sophie Dahl on set of The Delicious Miss Dahl

Sophie Dahl was an early proponent of the model turned cook phenomenon although she dislikes the moniker. “It wasn’t like a toppled from a catwalk into a kitchen in a freak accident, presented with an oven for the first time,” she has said.

Indian born Padma Lakshmi is a former model turned TV food star in the US. Like Dahl she admits to having no formal training but being a passionate home cook. The Top Chef judge kick started her food career by penning Easy Exotic: A Model’s Low Fat Recipes from around the World, “because everyone wants to know what a model eats.”

Padma Lakshmi

In Hong Kong, Amanda Strang has made the more unlikely transition from model to patisserie chef. “Modelling was my career and cooking and making pastries was my hobby. Models do eat!” she says.

Strang’s intriguing interest in cake making began as a child. “I began making pastries at the age of eight,” she says. “My mother doesn’t know how to bake but my father loves desserts and chocolates so it was mainly because of my father that I started making pastries.”

The half French model enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and then went on to apprentice at Laduree in and Caprice at Hong Kong’s Four Seasons. “I thought of having my own cake shop after I co hosted a food show with [food critic] Chua Lam,” she says. “He is like a mentor to me.”

Strang admits there were a few eyebrows raised when she opened Petite Amanda the patisserie at the IFC. “When I first opened, people came to the shop to see for their own eyes,” she says.

While many who queued were as likely to have been there for a glimpse of Amanda S as much as for the cake she says: “I think the Hong Kong public has been very impressed. It’s never been done before. Models and celebrities put their name to F&B outlets but I went to culinary school and in run the business myself.”


Lorraine Pascale with Jason Atherton

Former model Lorraine Pascale has also forged a successful career in cake making along with cookbooks and TV shows. Most recently she teamed up with Jason Atherton to host My Kitchen Rules in the UK. Pascale admits cooking wasn’t a calling, she was just trying out different courses to find something she could do beyond modelling. She says her first day at Leith’s culinary school in London “was like putting on the right clothes or shoes, it just fit.” Pascale went on to study pastry at the International Culinary Arts and worked in the kitchens at Tom Aikens, Petrus, The Wolseley and the Mandarin Oriental in London.
New York based chef Clarice Lam also swapped the international catwalks for working in pastry – at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market. “I have been interested in food and particularly sweet things since I was a little kid,” she says. “Paris is where I fell in love with pastry. I always loved to cook but after living in Paris and seeing all the beautiful pastries and desserts, I wanted to be a pastry chef.”

Travelling in Europe as a model compounded Lam’s interest in food. “I felt the easiest way to immerse myself in any culture was to study the cuisine. I loved the food in Italy. It is practically impossible to find a bad place to eat there. Paris is the fashion capital of the world, and also the birthplace of pastry. It would be difficult for anyone living in Paris to not take an interest in food.”

As for the assumption that models are on a permanent diet Lam says: “At that time I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain an ounce. But now is a completely different story.”

Despite training at Le Cordon Bleu in Florence and the French Culinary Institute in New York, she felt nervous entering a professional kitchen. “I felt intimidated and overwhelmed. Going to school prepped me with the basics but working in the field was a whole different pace.”

Lam became executive chef at dessert restaurant, The Chocolate Room, in Brooklyn and now runs an online bakery business, The Baking Bean, with plans to open her own store. Her experiences as a model influence her designs: “I have an encyclopedia of images in my brain from my travels. I grab a lot of inspiration from colours, art and architecture.”

While being beautiful helps a TV career, what about in a professional kitchen? “Being a model helped me to get free publicity for my shop,” says Amanda Strang. Clarice Lam has a different take: “It’s not something that I generally talk about. When I am working in the kitchen I prefer people to judge me based off of my skill level as a chef, not for something that I used to be.”

This story was originally posted in February 2015.


Jason Atherton in Asia

Jason Atherton and his wife Irha

Jason Atherton and his wife Irha

As  Jason Atherton announces a new restaurant opening in the Philippines (his wife’s homeland) and steps away from his restaurants in Singapore and Hong Kong, Chopstix looks back to meeting the chef and restaurateur in his early days in Asia:

Jason Atherton has been clocking up the air miles between the UK and Asia in just this last week alone. The former Gordon Ramsay protégé and head chef at Maze in London, now with his own Michelin starred restaurant Pollen Street Social, has made three round trips in seven days.

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Star crazy in Singapore as Michelin comes to town

The Michelin Guide Singapore will launch in 2016

The Michelin Guide Singapore will launch on July 21st 2016

Gastro tourists may want to book flights to Singapore from mid July 2016. A Singapore edition of the hallowed restaurant guide, Michelin, will be published on July 21st and announced at a ceremony open to the public for the first time.

The revered little red book began life in France in 1900 as a hotel and restaurant guide for motorists – hence the link with a tyre company. A century later, chefs vie for one, two or – the pinnacle – three Michelin stars and foodies flock to the restaurants that have them.

Originally focused on Europe, there are now 25 guides across the world including New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin Guides

Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin Guides

A Michelin star, or three, all but guarantees an increase in customers for restaurants. “There are tourists who plan their entire vacations around where they are going to eat and I think we play a strong role in that,” says Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin Guides. He adds that Michelin is often solicited by governments to launch in their cities, a sure sign of how important the guide is perceived in driving tourism.

“We think it will put Singapore’s restaurants on a worldwide platform and help draw more visitors,” confirms Melissa Ow, deputy chief executive of Singapore Tourism Board. So the country can expect a flurry of foodie tourists and elite business travellers as well as curious locals.

“In a place like this, with so much visibility to restaurants and such a hungry community of foodies it will have an impact,” says Ivan Brehm, head chef at top Singapore restaurant, Bacchanalia and an alumnus of the three Michelin starred Fat Duck in the UK.

A dish at Bacchanalia, Singapore

A dish at Bacchanalia, Singapore

Chef Ivan Brehm at Bacchanalia Singapore

Chef Ivan Brehm at Bacchanalia Singapore

“I also think a Michelin Guide will help level things out. A lot of restaurants in Singapore survive for factors other than their food and to have someone objective evaluating things like consistency, taste, creativity, outside of an establishment’s marketing efforts and wagyu usage seems refreshing,” says Brehm.

Hopefully that will discourage the gimmicky themes and over reliance on super premium ingredients in the city-state.

With its heritage in classic French cooking, Michelin has been criticized by the foodie community in Hong Kong for not understanding the local cuisine (among other things previously written about by Chopstix). In Singapore it faces a diverse mix of Chinese, Malaysian, Peranakan (a mix of Chinese and Malay) and Indonesian food as well as restaurants by internationally famous chefs including the much Michelin starred Joel Robuchon who has two restaurants at RW Sentosa, a partner of the Michelin Guide Singapore.

A dish at Joel Robuchon Singapore

A dish at Joel Robuchon Singapore

“It’s the same in Tokyo as well as Hong Kong,” says restaurateur Loh Lik Peng, the backer behind acclaimed chefs Dave Pynt, Jason Atherton (a Gordon Ramsay protogee) and Andre Chiang’s restaurants in Singapore. “I’m not really sure what the reviewers from France will make of our local restaurants and sze char [‘cook and fry’] street food.” [UPDATE: Jason Atherton has since parted ways with Loh Lik Peng restaurants in Singapore]

In the latest Hong Kong guide, Michelin has included a section on street food. With hawker stalls being so prevalent in the Lion City they may well do the same for Singapore.

“We don’t try to second guess our inspectors but with the hawker food scene being so vibrant here I would be surprised if it didn’t feature strongly in the guide,” says Ellis who admits to being a fan of local signature dish, Chilli Crab.

Street food experts though question how hawker fare can be assessed by international inspectors. And fine dining chef Brehm says: “Michelin should, in my opinion, stay clear from the coffee shop and hawker stall culture. These run deep in the make up of Singaporean society and any unnecessary polemic could undermine the guide’s overall relevance.”


Are you sure this is a good idea? – Michelin will launch a Singapore guide in 2016

Previously, its been mooted, the Michelin Guide has not launched in Singapore because the market was not big enough. Peng believes it’s still a relatively small pool: “I think [the Michelin inspectors] will need to ensure the right quality to maintain credibility so the top end restaurants able to command three stars might be a small number.”



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