Flavours of the Month

For­mer noma chef James Shar­man and his team ex­plore a new coun­try each month, then create a menu in­spired by their trav­els. Chloe Street visits their She­ung Wan base to find out how they do it

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life Food -

mag­ine the ef­fort that goes into cre­at­ing a res­tau­rant. A year per­haps of con­cep­tu­al­is­ing and venue hunt­ing, months of menu plan­ning and in­te­rior dec­o­rat­ing, weeks of staff hir­ing and dish fi­ness­ing? James Shar­man has had enough of that.

The 25-year-old for­mer chef de par­tie at Copen­hagen’s Noma needs just a month—a month in which his team travel to a coun­try they’ve never vis­ited, spend their first week im­mers­ing them­selves in the lo­cal food cul­ture, the sec­ond find­ing a venue and cre­at­ing a menu based on lo­cal in­flu­ences and in­gre­di­ents, the third week host­ing a pop-up for which they them­selves seat the guests, cook and serve, and then re­turn­ing home with an ex­cit­ing new menu and in­gre­di­ents for a Hong Kong pop-up.

That’s the con­cept be­hind Shar­man’s ex­cit­ing new ven­ture, One Star House Party, which has just kicked off a one-year res­i­dency in Hong Kong. And the team: Shar­man’s Lon­don busi­ness part­ner, Kevin Mccrae, with whom he worked un­der Bri­tish celebrity chef Tom Aikens and launched a street food con­cept called Butcher & Brine; Joseph Lidger­wood, another Aikens alum; and Mccrae’s wife, Trisha, a hos­pi­tal­ity vet­eran who pre­vi­ously man­aged Gau­cho in Lon­don.

The creative quar­tet gave the con­cept a trial run in Hong Kong in Jan­uary, and what was to be a three-day pop-up in a for­mer She­ung Wan print­ing house was so pop­u­lar that it had to be ex­tended to three weeks. The red-hot re­cep­tion was mo­ti­va­tion enough for the group to quit their full-time jobs to pur­sue the pop-up con­cept on a more per­ma­nent ba­sis.

“We started this be­cause we were all tired of the en­vi­ron­ments we’d been work­ing in,” says Shar­man, the front­man for One Star House Party (a tongue-in-cheek ref­er­ence to the Miche­lin stars of the team mem­bers’ pre­vi­ous restau­rants). “They were all amaz­ing places with in­cred­i­ble peo­ple, but we just wanted to do some­thing that was kind of out­side and com­pletely un­con­trived. We just knew it was what we wanted to do from now on.”

The team fol­lowed up the suc­cess of the Hong Kong pop-up with a month-long trip in the US, where they rented one of New York’s most ex­pen­sive Airbnbs for their venue. “Imag­ine you’re about to open a res­tau­rant in 10 days and you have noth­ing but an apart­ment to do it in,” Shar­man re­calls. Over the course of that 10 days, he and his team sourced fur­ni­ture, glasses and kitchen equip­ment, sold tick­ets, ate their way around New York and de­signed a menu based on their ex­pe­ri­ences. Aside from the ob­vi­ous phys­i­cal and emo­tional stresses, the fi­nan­cial stakes were high, too. The night be­fore tick­ets went on sale, the team were US$60,000 in debt on their credit cards and Shar­man “wouldn’t have been able to go to Star­bucks for a latte.”

For­tu­nately, the six-night pop-up, like Hong Kong’s, was a sell-out. So pop­u­lar, in fact, that one night a guest who missed the cut-off for ad­mis­sion to the Chelsea build­ing (Trisha had been man­ning the en­trance but was called back to the kitchen) scaled sev­eral fire es­capes be­fore ap­pear­ing at a win­dow. “He was bang­ing on the win­dow shout­ing, ‘Help me, help me’,” says Shar­man, “and so we pulled him in. This guy just bun­dled onto the kitchen floor and said, ‘My girl’s out­side,’ so we had to go and let her in.”

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