Small Talk

Restau­ra­teur and business mag­nate Michelle Ma-chan tells Cherry Lai about her love for fine food and the guest chef she’s bring­ing to Hong Kong

Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

Restau­ra­teur and business mag­nate Michelle Ma-chan dis­cusses the guest chef she’s bring­ing to Hong Kong

s the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of skincare brand Fancl and founder of Gourmet Din­ing Group, Michelle Ma-chan has a pen­chant for the finer things in life. With her restau­rant group—which in­cludes Miche­lin-starred Épure, French con­tem­po­rary hotspot Ar­bor and pas­try brand Dal­loyau—she has be­come a power player on the city’s din­ing scene in just a few short years. Now, Michelle has her sights set on new hori­zons—in par­tic­u­lar, an ex­clu­sive guest chef pro­gramme that brings some of the culi­nary world’s most il­lus­tri­ous names to Hong Kong for ex­cit­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions. One of the com­ing high­lights is Sushi Umi’s Ryu­jiro Nakamura, who has been in­vited to col­lab­o­rate with Ar­bor’s Eric Räty on a four-hand show­case on Oc­to­ber 9 and 10. Here, over bub­bles and Épure’s fa­mous desserts, Michelle dis­cusses her culi­nary am­bi­tions and what makes a good meal. What made you de­cide to open restau­rants? A few years ago I re­alised our top-tier culi­nary des­ti­na­tions were lim­ited com­pared to cities like Ja­pan, Paris, New York and Lon­don, partly be­cause of Hong Kong’s high rents, which meant restau­rants sac­ri­ficed qual­ity to cut costs. My goal was to open restau­rants of­fer­ing the same elite qual­ity with ex­cep­tional value, and Épure was born. Although the cost of run­ning top-qual­ity restau­rants is sub­stan­tial and they may take longer to break even, it’s worth the ef­fort to in­spire cus­tomers with a truly gourmet din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Why do you in­vite in­ter­na­tional guest chefs to your restau­rants? My goal is to bring their top-tier ex­pe­ri­ence and skills to our lo­cal cus­tomers. These part­ner­ships are greatly wel­comed by our guests who aren’t able to get a ta­ble at these chefs’ pop­u­lar venues when they travel, so they pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­pe­ri­ence the top-notch, world-class culi­nary won­ders that other parts of the world have to of­fer. What is it about chef Ryu­jiro Nakamura that made you want to work with him? In my opin­ion, it takes three key el­e­ments to make a good chef: great in­gre­di­ents, tech­nique and heart. Ryu­jiro Nakamura has all three. To me, his sushi is as good as those from Sukiyabashi Jiro, Ishikawa or Kiy­ota. Most im­por­tant of all, he is a happy young chef ded­i­cated to bring­ing joy to his guests through his food. To make sushi that is this good, he needs to be ab­so­lutely ded­i­cated in ev­ery as­pect of prepa­ra­tion, in­clud­ing us­ing sci­en­tific tech­niques to treat the seafood. These types of skills and meth­ods also work ex­cel­lently in the ex­e­cu­tion of French cui­sine. Tell us about the best meal you’ve had. A truly great meal shares the same el­e­ments as my three key el­e­ments of a good chef. I’m for­tu­nate to have ex­pe­ri­enced Os­te­ria Frances­cana by Mas­simo Bot­tura in Italy, which is ranked num­ber one on the World’s 50 Best Restau­rants list. His in­spi­ra­tion and pas­sion know no bounds. Not only is he cre­ative, he also has the tech­nique and ca­pa­bil­ity to ex­e­cute his vi­sion per­fectly. De­spite the long wait­ing list, he in­sists on putting only six ta­bles in his restau­rant so he can main­tain peak qual­ity and to­tal sat­is­fac­tion for ev­ery guest. I find this very re­spect­ful. I re­mem­ber the last time I vis­ited his restau­rant, a guest told him that he had eaten there three times in one month. Chef Mas­simo said it was not pos­si­ble; he wants as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to try his creations, so he pri­ori­tises ta­bles for those who have never eaten at his restau­rant be­fore. In the end, the guest ad­mit­ted he had used dif­fer­ent names to make his reser­va­tions. What ad­vice would you give bud­ding en­trepreneurs? The younger gen­er­a­tion nowa­days asks for free­dom. Hav­ing free­dom to fol­low your heart is im­por­tant, but dis­ci­pline and a will to suc­ceed are also cru­cial. With­out dis­ci­pline, all the free­dom in the world will not re­sult in suc­cess. What is next for you? I want to con­tinue creat­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for those truly ded­i­cated to build­ing and ad­vanc­ing their ca­reers. I want to help those who demon­strate a se­ri­ous vi­sion and ded­i­ca­tion to be­come bet­ter, and to pro­vide the op­por­tu­ni­ties and struc­ture that can help them achieve their goals. The four-hands lunch menu takes place on Oc­to­ber 9 and 10 at Ar­bor, H Queen’s; +852 3185 8388

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