Redefining Hong Kong’s dining scene with the new sister outlet of two-Michelin-starred Mosu Seoul, chef-founder SUNG AHN talks to STEPHENIE GEE about what keeps him going and why simple isn’t really that simple


"AFTER I PAID the tuition, I had no choice.” This is how Korean- born chef Sung Ahn began his culinary journey.

How it happened is a very relateable story:

After moving to California with his family at the age of 13, Ahn decided to join the US Army. Following his service, he signed up for mechanic school hoping to fulfill his dream of becoming a Porsche mechanic. That was until he drove past a culinary school and, being the spontaneou­s character he is, decided to cancel his enrollment at mechanic school and sign up for a cooking class. “It was just kind of interestin­g to see something new, something I wasn't familiar with – the world of gastronomy,” he recalls.

Although things eventually worked out for Ahn, the journey wasn't all smooth sailing. With no particular interest in or burning passion for the craft of cooking, he had to draw on a different kind of motivation. “I did love my job,” he clarifies. “I loved the learning process. But what kept me going and striving to be better and move on to restaurant­s of higher standards was a fear of not making it.”

Like many of his counterpar­ts, Ahn started at the bottom washing dishes and shucking oysters. Fueled by a will to succeed as a self-proclaimed “late” starter at 24, he slowly worked his way up to sautéing and flambéing in Michelin- starred restaurant­s including Urasawa, The French Laundry and Benu, setting an ambitious goal for himself of reaching the position of executive chef or senior management by age 30.

This, of course, was no easy task. But Ahn soldiered on, not only fulfilling his goal but surpassing it in the summer of 2015 by opening Mosu San Francisco – an opportunit­y that he says came by chance and “luckily, it worked out.”

To say it worked out is an understate­ment. As one of the city's most anticipate­d openings, the tastingmen­u- only restaurant located in the historic Fillmore district earned its first Michelin star in just one year. Though short-lived – Ahn relocated to South Korea in 2017 to be closer to his family – Mosu San Francisco was just the beginning of his upwards trajectory. In 2020, Mosu Seoul was awarded its second Michelin star and in 2021, Ahn, along with Hong Kong- based hospitalit­y group Lai Sun Dining, announced the opening of the first internatio­nal outpost, Mosu Hong Kong.

Set in the newly opened M+ at West Kowloon, the restaurant is far removed from Central and its gaggle of Michelin- starred venues. The location recalls Ahn's similar decision to open Mosu Seoul north of the Han River in Itaewon rather than in Gangnam, a district with 18 Michelin- starred restaurant­s. “Why was that?” he asks. “Well, I think Hong Kong's M+ museum is so beautiful. I love the space. People had concerns about how far away it was. You know, they have to take a taxi or even if they take the MTR they have to walk so much. But despite all that, I went with my gut instincts.

“When I think about where Mosu came from – it was never meant to be somewhere luxurious or extravagan­t… I want it to be cosy, homey and where customers walk in and I can welcome them with open arms,” Ahn explains. The name Mosu is in fact an homage to his childhood memories of running among cosmos flowers in a field by his home (“mosu” comes from “kosumosu,” the colloquial term for the bloom).

Ahn is known for staying true to his roots but also deviating from the norm. Taking inspiratio­n from everything and everywhere, his dishes explore beyond what we know as Korean food, utilising local ingredient­s to redefine establishe­d and traditiona­l flavours. While most would describe his cuisine as innovative, Ahn himself sees it merely as an adaptation.

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Mosu’s signature small bite abalone taco made with tofu skin
This page: Sung Ahn Opposite page: Mosu’s signature small bite abalone taco made with tofu skin
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