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
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.”