Chef Vicky Lau of Tate Dining Room in Hong Kong is the first female chef in Asia to receive two Michelin stars.
Tate Dining Room, run by Hong Kong’s only female Michelin-star chef Vicky Lau, and French fine dining restaurant L’Envol in the St Regis hotel were awarded two Michelin stars in the 2021 Michelin Guide Hong Kong & Macau, while eight others were handed one star, including The Chairman and Yardbird.
The results were announced in a virtual ceremony with Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin guides, reading out the names from Paris, two days after stars were awarded in the UK and Ireland.
Hong Kong now has 12 restaurants with two stars and 50 with one star. The number of three-star restaurants remains unchanged at seven.
In Macau, Wing Lei Palace at the Wynn Palace Cotai received one star, the only change in the “Vegas of China”.
One of the Hong Kong restaurants awarded one star for the first time was Ando, helmed by chef and co-owner Agustin Ferrando Balbi.
When asked his reaction, Balbi admitted he was still in shock. “I didn’t know anything before the ceremony and found out just now. When we heard the name ‘Ando’ we went crazy! Our customers who were eating a late lunch or early dinner asked us what was going on,” he said with a laugh, adding the staff gave all the diners a glass of champagne.
“We opened in July and then closed the restaurant two times,” Balbi said of opening in the midst of the pandemic. But he was grateful to his team for working hard together.
Another thrilled recipient of a first star was Chinese executive chef Jayson Tang Ka-ho of Man Ho Chinese Restaurant at the JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong.
“I am so excited right now,” he said on the phone following the ceremony. “I want to get my team together and we can celebrate.”
He said the pandemic had made it difficult to serve the best Chinese food for his guests, with the restrictions constantly changing and groups currently limited to two people per table, with dining in stopping at 6pm.
“We want to get the freshest ingredients, but the restrictions have made it harder for us to predict how much of each ingredient to buy. For example, we may only buy a few fish, so we sometimes sell out, and I have to apologise to customers that we have run out. I would rather sell out of a dish than not have fresh ingredients to cook for my guests.”
Meanwhile, Lau of Tate Dining Room in Sheung Wan is the first female chef in Asia to receive two Michelin stars. Her dishes focus on French-Chinese fine dining and in the past year she has created several “Ode to” themed menus that focus on a single ingredient, including tofu, tea and soy sauce.
“Covid has made me rethink why I am cooking and what I am cooking and sometimes we forget these two questions,” she said.
“It has made me realign everything. My ‘Ode to’ menus have pushed me to look deeper into each ingredient and our customers come back each time there is a new menu. It has made me focus on the ingredients I use and the cooking techniques.”
She said she is “very, very happy” and that the Michelin recognition is a dream come true.
An intriguing choice for one Michelin star this year is Yardbird, a casual yakitori place opened by Matt Abergel and Lindsay Jang 10 years ago.
“It’s a positive thing, it’s a weird thing,” Abergel said, trying to process the news. “It [Michelin] has never been on my mind, we don’t associate with it, it’s not who we are as a restaurant, unlike Ando which is living that world, but we are very grateful and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Abergel said the pandemic made it very challenging to keep the Sheung Wan restaurant going, and the takeaway business comes at a greater cost with packaging, and fewer people drinking alcohol.
He is surprised Yardbird was recognised a decade after being in business, though he promises the restaurant will not change because of the gourmet accolade.
A new award for Hong Kong and Macau is the Michelin Green Star, praising restaurants that have innovative practices that combine gastronomy and sustainability in daily operations. This year two restaurants were noted: Roganic in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay and IFT Educational Restaurant in Macau.
Michelin has been holding virtual announcements for various countries despite the pandemic forcing many restaurants around the world to shut down. In Hong Kong, restaurants have had to be very flexible to adjust to government-mandated measures that can change weekly.
In his video address, Poullennec thanked the chefs and restaurants for working hard to keep their businesses going during the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.
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