IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Up Close With May Chow
Just a while ago, Club Monaco met with May Chow, the recently crowned Asia’s Best Female Chef and the foodie genius behind Little Bao, Second Draft and Happy Paradise. This Week, Club Monaco is happy to chat with the rising star about her lifestyle and culinary journey.
CM: Describe the lifestyle you are conveying through your food.
MC: For Little Bao and Second Draft, it’s relatively casual and fun. I took a lot of inspiration from my Hong Kong and American upbringing as well as looking into my Shanghai family heritage. My food reflects a lot of my own personal experience and we always try to stay true to cultures and play with ingredients cleverly but still respecting the original identity of the ingredient. For Happy Paradise, it is much more daring, bold and adventurous and it takes a very in-depth exploration into my Chinese heritage. It’s style is very raw and broadens our perspective on how modern Chinese food can be. It is a much more progressive project.
CM: Who are your biggest inspirations for your career?
MC: David Chang, Nancy Silverton, Jane Fonda, Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Warren Buffett.
CM: Tell us about one of your latest projects that you’ve enjoyed the most
MC: Happy Paradise is definitely my latest project that I’ve enjoyed and we are still continuing to refine it, from the interior design to the music or working with my head bartender Chanel Adams and my Executive Chef John Javier. We play 80s-90s Chinese Cantopop featuring Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui. The ceiling is completely covered in Neon, the interior is flushed with pink and showcases creative use of Hong Kong tiling and furniture from the 70’s. Our cocktail and food program is very daring. We use ingredients like snake wine, soy sauce and durian in our cocktails. While our food looks at classic or forgotten dishes, we try to still bring a fun and modern twist without losing its integrity and soul of Cantonese food. It’s a very challenging project and it's a project that I think we can never stop learning in.
CM: Is there still more that you want to accomplish in your career?
MC: I really only started to focus on cooking four years ago when I opened Little Bao. I would like to travel throughout China and learn all there is about Chinese cuisine. I plan to open restaurants and keep taking on fun projects. I love working with creative people and nurturing my staff. I am lucky because I truly love what I do and I think I will continue pursuing this as long as I have good health.
CM: What do you enjoy the most about being a chef?
MC: Food is my passion. I get tingles when I get a new cook book, walk into a new restaurant or get to share my culinary passion with like-minded people. I love feeding people and making people happy through food. Being a chef is definitely challenging, and is mentally and physically exhausting. However, the intensity is what I love most about being a chef.
CM: Travelling is where a lot of chefs draw their inspiration from, which country inspires you the most?
MC: Because of the nature of my work, China definitely inspires me the most but I also love the culinary scene in the U.S. and Australia.
CM: Tell us the most meaningful food experience you have ever had during your travel.
MC: I was once backpacking in Yunan and went to a beautiful scenic area called Shangri-La. We were staying at a hostel and the owner told us to go to a Yunnan Hot Pot Place. I really wasn’t expecting much but when I got there I was mind blown. Whole beef parts were hanging all over the restaurant and were naturally aging due to the dry and cool temperature, it was almost like a Spanish iberico ham shop. The restaurant itself was rustic and featured wooden interiors. We ate with an open charcoal hot pot. They used beef bones to make the beefiest bone broth, with vegetables from the mountains which I have never seen before and the beef was dry-aged to perfection. This was over 10 years ago and I still think about it. It was a combination of surprises because we discovered it off the beaten path and it presented us with an amazing and unique experience and unforgettable food. These rare and special moments in life are ones that I truly treasure.
CM: Where do you think is the best place to start exploring a new culinary culture?
MC: I’ve never been to South America and I think it would be a very fun place to explore a new culinary culture against the backdrop of a beautiful continent.
CM: Can you share your upcoming travel plan with us?
MC: I will be travelling to Austria soon to do a special Gelinaz project, where chefs will be split into teams and will be given secret recipes on the spot and we will each have to re-create the dishes. It will be such an honor to work with the world’s most renowned chefs including David Chang, Rene Redzepi, Virgilio Martinez and Magnus Nilsson, just to name a few. We will start in Vienna and venture out for two hours to embark on our culinary adventure.
CM: Your restaurants have very interesting interiors; do you have the same at home? Where do you usually shop for home décor?
MC: I like to keep my home very comfortable so it is definitely not as eccentric as my restaurants. I like simplicity with a little pop of color here and here and there. I tend to collect ceramics from my travels, found in European flea markets or mid-century furniture stores in LA. However, our apartment in Hong Kong is still very small so I haven’t seriously started collecting furniture yet but I LOVE visiting stores like Eric Trine Designs, Matter Matters, Heath Ceramics and Hay Design.
CM: Which are your favorite places to hang out in Hong Kong?
MC: I love going to Le Cabane for amazing cheese, natural wine and great small bites, Second Draft for beer, Cyberport park for picnics and taking the dogs out, Yardbird and Okra for late night bites as well as Bakudanya and Kozy for late night Japanese food.
獨家專訪：與 May Chow 對話
最近，Club Monaco 與被冠以亞洲最佳女廚師之名及 Little Bao, Second Draft 和 Happy Paradise 的幕後天才美食家 May Chow 會面。這星期，Club Monaco 很高興與這位新星交談並分亨她的生活和烹飪旅程。
MC: Little Bao 和 Second Draft 的感覺相對是休閒和有趣的。我從香港和美國的成長經歷中吸取了很多靈感，並且深入了解了我家庭背景中的上海特色。我的食物反映了很多我的個人經歷，我們一直嘗試保持原汁原味的文化：巧妙地加入不同的材料，但仍保留材料的原本特色。至於 Happy Paradise，則更加勇於冒險、大膽創新，更深入地探索我的中國傳統，這是之前沒有人嘗試過的事情。它的風格很質樸能拓寬我們對現代中國菜的想象。這是一個更加進步的項目。
MC: David Chang, Nancy Silverton, Jane Fonda, Elon Musk, Richard Branson 還有 Warren Buffett。
MC: Happy Paradise 絕對是我最喜歡的新項目，從我們的室內設計到音樂，或與我的酒保主管 Chanel Adams 和我的執行主廚 John Javier 共事都很享受，並且仍在完善中。我們播放80至90年代張國榮和梅艷芳的廣東流行曲。我們的天花板全由螢光霓虹燈覆蓋，室內裝飾流溢著粉紅色和創意地展示了70年代香港瓷磚和家具。我們的雞尾酒和食物非常大膽，會在雞尾酒中使用蛇酒，醬油，榴蓮等成分。雖然我們的食物看似經典或被遺忘的菜餚，但我們加入有趣現代的元素而不會失去粵菜的靈魂。這是非常具有挑戰性的項目，這是一個我認為永遠不會停止學習或需要一直創新求變的項目。
MC: 我4年前開創 Little Bao 時才真正專注烹飪，我想去中國各地旅遊，學習中國菜。我計劃開餐廳，繼續做創意項目。我喜歡與創意人士合作，我也喜歡培養我的員工。我很幸運地對我所做的工作充滿熱情，我認為只要我身體健康，就會繼續做下去。
MC: 我之前背包旅行到雲南，去了一個美麗的風景區叫做香格里拉。我們住在青旅，老闆告訴我們去吃雲南火鍋。我沒期待太多，但是當我到達那裡時，我很震驚! 因為天氣乾燥涼爽，他們把所有牛的不同部分都懸掛在餐廳裡自然風乾，像西班牙的伊比利亞火腿店一樣。整個餐廳都是木質的，很有鄉村氣息。我們用一個開放式的炭爐火鍋吃飯，他們用牛骨熬制了最濃郁的牛骨湯，裡面全是我以前從未見過的山地蔬菜，而牛肉風乾得恰到好處。這已是十多年前的事情，我仍然時常回想。這是一連串的驚喜：人跡罕至的地方、驚人的陌生體驗、令人驚羨的食物。它是我生命中罕有的特別時刻，我特別珍惜。
MC: 我很快將前往奧地利，做一個特別的 Gelinaz 項目，廚師們會被即場提供秘密食譜並分隊重新創造菜色。很榮幸與30多名廚師合作，名單包括: David Chang (Momofuku) 、Rene Redzepi (Noma) 、Virgilio Martinez (Central) 、Magnus Nilsson (The Nordic Cookbook) 等。我們將在維也納開始，為我們的烹飪冒險經歷兩小時的冒險。
MC: 我喜歡把家佈置得很舒適，所以絕對不如我的餐廳那麼誇張。我喜歡簡樸並同時點綴一些跳躍顏色。我喜歡在旅行中收集陶瓷，如歐洲跳蚤市場和洛杉磯的中世紀家具店。不過我在香港的公寓還很小，所以我沒有認真開始收集家具但是我愛去類似 Eric Trine Design, Matter Matters, Heath Ceramics, Hay Design 這樣的選品店。
MC: 到 Le Cabane 品嚐絕妙的奶酪，天然葡萄酒及小點、在 Second Draft 品嚐啤酒、去數碼港野餐和帶狗外出。到 The Pulse、Yardbird 和 Okra 宵夜、在 Bakudanya 和 Kozi 品嚐日本深夜美食。