Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

Ar­rang­ing a black-tie din­ner for 450 peo­ple is no mean feat. When it’s in aid of a good cause, how­ever, and un­der the aus­pices of so­ci­ety su­per­woman and busi­ness dy­namo Michelle Ong, ty­coons and tastemak­ers are all too keen to lend a hand. So it hap­pened for the First Ini­tia­tive Foun­da­tion’s (FIF) May fundrais­ing gala. The il­lus­tri­ous af­fair, which took “In Har­mony” as its theme, drew on the tal­ent and gen­eros­ity of artists, ac­tresses, mu­si­cians, chefs and hun­dreds of com­mu­nity-minded so­ci­ety fig­ures, who worked to­gether to cre­ate an un­for­get­table evening. “It was won­der­ful that ev­ery­one I asked agreed to help,” says FIF chair­man Michelle Ong. “In the spirit of the ini­tia­tive, it was truly a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort to ben­e­fit Hong Kong.”


A layer of glam­our coated this year’s gala, thanks to a con­stel­la­tion of star sup­port­ers who threw their weight be­hind the FIF cause. Ca­rina Lau, Pak Suet-sin, Ea­son Chan, Ann Hui, Con­nie Chan, Katie Chan and Sa Chen were all in at­ten­dance. “I was de­lighted to par­tic­i­pate when Michelle in­vited me to be part of the ini­tia­tive,” says Chen, who con­sid­ers mu­sic “the best thing that has hap­pened to hu­man be­ings” be­cause it al­lows us to un­der­stand more about time, life and our emo­tions. The ex­cit­ing young Chi­nese pi­anist gave an Fif-sup­ported mu­si­cal mas­ter­class for stu­dents at Hong Kong Poly­tech­nic Univer­sity the day be­fore the gala, and also per­formed with the French Di­o­tima Quar­tet at the FIF/LE French May con­cert hours be­fore the din­ner. Su­per­star and FIF youth am­bas­sador Ea­son Chan’s mes­sage to the glit­ter­ing sup­port­ers on the evening en­cour­aged ev­ery­one to join to­gether in sup­port of mu­sic and ed­u­ca­tion: “It’s key, it’s at the cen­tre— it’s our youth and our fu­ture.” Award-win­ning di­rec­tor Ann Hui also lauded FIF’S “im­por­tant work on be­half of Hong Kong’s cre­ative in­dus­tries, lo­cally and abroad.”


Work­ing tire­lessly be­hind the scenes were re­mark­able FIF mem­bers and spe­cial sup­port­ers—a ros­ter of the great and good from around the world. “The strength of any or­gan­i­sa­tion re­ally re­sides in the de­vo­tion and gen­eros­ity of its mem­ber­ship,” says Ong. “I am for­tu­nate to have the un­fail­ing sup­port of so many.” Found­ing mem­ber Vivien Chen sees the work “as bring­ing us to­gether to nur­ture achieve­ments in the next gen­er­a­tion.” Wendy Kwok, a sup­port­ing mem­ber, de­scribes FIF’S In Har­mony ini­tia­tive as “com­pelling, com­mu­nity-minded and ef­fec­tive,” and Paulette Ho adds that “unity for a good cause is al­ways in­spi­ra­tional and en­er­gis­ing.”

Ong also draws at­ten­tion to the work of the ded­i­cated fundrais­ing com­mit­tee. “When I de­cided to form a fundrais­ing com­mit­tee for FIF’S In Har­mony event, I im­me­di­ately knew who would be on my dream team,” says Ong, who turned to Joyce Tam, Chris­tine Chuang, Karen Cheung, Vena Cheng, Michelle Cheng, Jenny Chau and Christina Gaw, as well as her son Adrian Cheung, to help rally sup­port and or­ches­trate the ex­trav­a­ganza. All mem­bers are pas­sion­ate sup­port­ers of the arts. “At a time when unity is im­por­tant to ev­ery­one, mu­sic and the arts can help to bring peo­ple to­gether be­cause they have no bar­ri­ers,” says Chuang. Tam

par­tic­u­larly liked the di­ver­sity of per­for­mances in the lead-up to and dur­ing the gala. “It em­pha­sised the har­mony in­trin­sic in art forms and cul­ture,” says Tam. Karen Cheung was also in firm sup­port of the team ef­fort un­der Ong’s lead­er­ship. “Michelle is de­voted, tire­less and com­mit­ted to the foun­da­tion’s char­i­ta­ble work,” she says. “I ap­pre­ci­ate the pur­pose, but also the breadth of FIF’S work, in­clud­ing lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional schol­ar­ships, cul­tural out­reach and per­for­mance pro­grammes, ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes and her­itage arts preser­va­tion.”


The evening’s live auc­tion, con­ducted by Robert Sleigh of Sotheby’s, raised ad­di­tional funds and saw cov­eted works of art, wine and ex­pe­ri­ences go un­der the ham­mer, thanks to a hand­ful of gen­er­ous donors that in­cluded FIF’S char­i­ta­ble part­ner and prin­ci­pal spon­sor Vacheron Con­stantin, Smith Haut Lafitte, Ficofi, Cathay Pa­cific Air­ways, Dior, Li Xiaol­ing and MGM Re­sorts In­ter­na­tional. Chi­nese fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher Chen Man do­nated her 2009 print RED HAIR­PIN. “Hong Kong is a very im­por­tant cen­tre for art and I am de­lighted to work with FIF be­cause they are cre­at­ing ini­tia­tives to strengthen the city’s cul­ture of cre­ativ­ity,” says the VOGUE con­trib­u­tor, who has shot cam­paigns for lead­ing lux­ury brands. Another auc­tion in aid of FIF will take place on Oc­to­ber 4 via Sotheby’s. It will fea­ture an ex­clu­sive trip for six peo­ple to the Napa Val­ley, ar­ranged by Master of Wine, writer and pub­lisher Jean­nie Cho Lee, dur­ing which they will visit distin­guished winer­ies such as Har­lan Es­tate and Opus One. “It is through art and cul­ture that we en­cour­age cre­ativ­ity, lat­eral think­ing and a true ap­pre­ci­a­tion for all that life of­fers,” says Cho Lee, who en­joys tin­kling the ivories in her spare time. “As a mother to four


chil­dren who were born and ed­u­cated in Hong Kong, I be­lieve that ap­pre­ci­at­ing all forms of art is es­sen­tial to pro­vid­ing a well-rounded foun­da­tion for a child’s growth and de­vel­op­ment.” For­mer Hong Kong fi­nan­cial sec­re­tary Henry Tang has also do­nated a col­lec­tion of wine from his own cel­lar. “Art en­riches the soul and broad­ens the mind,” says Tang, whose con­tri­bu­tion to FIF’S Oc­to­ber auc­tion in­cludes a 1945 Petrus and a 1945 Mou­ton Roth­schild. “It’s im­per­a­tive to pro­vide our fu­ture lead­ers with art and cul­tural ex­po­sure and knowl­edge.”


The FIF grand gala menu was cre­ated by Ni­co­las Masse, the il­lus­tri­ous chef be­hind the two Miche­lin stars earned by the Bordeaux res­tau­rant La Grand’vigne at Les Sources de Cau­dalie. “One of my culi­nary sig­na­tures is to cre­ate a har­mony of flavours us­ing sur­pris­ing as­so­ci­a­tions and un­ex­pected con­trasts,” says Masse. “Each in­gre­di­ent must be in­di­vid­u­ally re­mark­able, but the over­all menu must be har­mo­nious in con­cept and pre­sen­ta­tion.” Masse teamed up with Mar­cus Mathyssek, ex­ec­u­tive chef at the Grand Hy­att Hong Kong, to cre­ate a menu that melded French and Asian flavours, and led a team of about 60 chefs in ex­e­cut­ing it on the night. A to­tal of 220 live Bos­ton lob­sters, 80 kilo­grams of the finest USDA prime sir­loin, 60 kilo­grams of sus­tain­able Patag­o­nian tooth­fish, 20 kilo­grams of sashimi-grade scal­lops and prime tuna, and fresh morels from Canada’s west coast were trans­formed into a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds. Din­ner be­gan with a sashimi of otoro and At­lantic scal­lop with a yuzu, soy and wasabi sor­bet. This was fol­lowed by a lob­ster med­ley, which in­cluded court bouil­lon­poached lob­ster and a crispy lob­ster roll with av­o­cado-banana gua­camole and fine herbs.

For the main course, guests were given the choice of two dishes typ­i­cal of the Aquitaine re­gion of France: char­grilled Patag­o­nian tooth­fish, potato mous­se­line, morel mush­room sauce and green as­para­gus, or char-grilled beef sir­loin with crispy bone mar­row, morels and green chervil. “It’s French food but adapted to meet an Asian palate,” says Masse. At the evening’s close, guests were treated to Pierre Hermé mac­arons pack­aged in a box bear­ing an ink work by artist Chloe Ho, ref­er­enc­ing her re­cent show at New York’s iconic Forbes Gal­leries.


The ex­quis­ite fare was ac­com­pa­nied by equally im­pres­sive wines do­nated by Château Smith Haut Lafitte. The es­tate, in the Graves dis­trict of Bordeaux, sits on a gravel rise that en­sures ideal grow­ing con­di­tions. “In 1990 my par­ents fell in love with the prop­erty and joined the list of pres­ti­gious own­ers in­tend­ing to fur­ther en­hance its tra­di­tion of ex­cel­lence,” says Alice Tour­bier, daugh­ter of own­ers Daniel and Florence Cathiard. “They com­bined the most mod­ern wine­mak­ing tech­niques with age-old tra­di­tional meth­ods.” Her fam­ily, which also owns the Cau­dalie skin­care brand and op­er­ates bou­tique ho­tels, has been sup­port­ing the arts for decades. “You should see the spec­tac­u­lar art pieces scat­tered around our vine­yard, in­clud­ing a few from Chi­nese artists like Zhan Wang and Wang Du,” she says.

Tour­bier met Ong a cou­ple of years ago and was im­pressed by the founder’s pas­sion and com­mit­ment to her foun­da­tion. In recog­ni­tion, the Cathiard fam­ily treated the FIF gala to three of their best drops. To start, guests en­joyed the 2012 Les Hauts de Smith Blanc, the fa­mous sec­ond la­bel in the château’s sta­ble of whites. Then came the 2007 Château Smith Haut Lafitte red. “It has beau­ti­fully opened, and is dis­play­ing notes of liquorice, with a great bal­ance be­tween fruit and tan­nins,” says Tour­bier. Guests were also served 2009 Château Bas­tor-la­mon­tagne, a sweet elixir that dis­plays notes of spice, pineap­ple and or­ange blos­som. “This cause is not just worth­while; it is nec­es­sary,” says Tour­bier. “Pro­mot­ing the arts, help­ing youth ac­com­plish their dreams and bring­ing to Hong Kong artists that el­e­vate the soul—is there any­thing more im­por­tant? Maybe drink­ing a very good glass of Smith Haut Lafitte, which is our own ver­sion of art.”

Pho­tog­ra­phy calvin at no­mad

many hands The chefs, from left: Marco Ullrich, Mar­cus Mathyssek, Ni­co­las Masse and David White

taste mat­ters Michelle Ong and Adrian Cheung taste-tested all the night's dishes, in­clud­ing the colour­ful lob­ster med­ley (above), three times be­fore the gala menu was fi­nalised

forces of na­ture The FIF fundrais­ing com­mit­tee at the Grand Hy­att, from left: Chris­tine Chuang, Adrian Cheung, Jenny Chau, Michelle Cheng, Christina Gaw, Vena Cheng and Joyce Tam

paint­ing the plate The menu in­cluded char­grilled Patag­o­nian tooth­fish (above) and Pierre Hermé mac­arons (be­low)

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