Secrets and techniques from the person behind Hong Kong’s hottest eating places



Hong Kong is broadly thought-about one of the crucial difficult cities on the earth to function a restaurant – a roiling cauldron of adjusting tastes, cleaver-sharp competitors and unsavory economics.

Proper on the coronary heart of its culinary world, with connections to at the least half of its hottest tables, is publicist Geoffrey Wu.

Wu and his 10-year-old consultancy agency The Forks and Spoons work with among the most adorned eating places and bars on the town, such because the two-Michelin starred TATE Eating Room and Ando, one of the crucial sought-after reservations on the town.

Geoffrey Wu is the publicist behind many of Hong Kong's toughest tables.

“I wouldn’t say we’re higher at our job than different individuals. I’d say we’re completely different,” he tells CNN Journey in The Baker and The Bottleman, a brand new informal bakery and pure wine bar by movie star British chef Simon Rogan, the place he’s agreed to spill among the secrets and techniques of Hong Kong’s eating scene.

After being expelled from the College of Science and Know-how in Hong Kong for “skipping too many lessons to play playing cards at McDonald’s,” Wu joined Amber, the famed French restaurant underneath the helm of Richard Ekkebus, as operations workers in 2005.

Over the following few years he took on varied advertising roles for various corporations – however at all times discovered himself again within the meals and beverage business. In 2012, he opened his F&B consultancy agency.

Wu isn’t your typical meals and beverage publicist. He isn’t congenial. He’s identified for often yelling at purchasers for making a mistake, or members of the media he feels haven’t performed their analysis.

“I’m not afraid to talk up – individuals know that for certain. Generally you want a advisor who is easy about issues that should be mounted. We aren’t right here to therapeutic massage your ego. We’re right here for the outcomes. We’re right here to win,” says Wu, sounding extra like a soccer coach than a PR skilled.

“If I needed to please everybody, I’d go promote ice cream. Fortunately, most of my purchasers perceive.”

Amongst these purchasers is Yenn Wong, founder and chief govt officer of JIA, a restaurant group behind common award-winning Hong Kong eateries like Mono and Duddell’s.

“The Forks and Spoons perceive and personalize the wants of every idea and is at all times staying very present with the related methods to make sure we as purchasers get essentially the most publicity to our target market, which in the end delivers optimistic income progress,” Wong tells CNN Journey.

Dinner tables at Bluhouse, a new Italian restaurant at Rosewood Hotel, are often booked out two months in advance.

One of many essential duties for a F&B publicist is to be bodily current at a restaurant, in accordance with Wu. He’s both tinkering with menus, sampling new dishes or just assembly with purchasers.

It could possibly be something from translating the restaurant’s a la carte menu from Chinese language into English to working with cooks on selecting dishes for a tasting menu, “so you’ll be able to see what’s taking place and let the workers know that you simply care,” says Wu.

For example, later that day, he says he’s having a trial lunch at Bluhouse, a brand new informal Italian eating idea on the Rosewood Lodge in Kowloon.

“At a tasting, we’ll take a look at every thing – style, presentation and temperature of the meals. We additionally take a look at furnishings, operation movement, pricing, and so forth.,” he says. “No new restaurant is ever excellent, however let’s attempt to reduce the error.

“Now we have solely labored with purchasers in Asia – Hong Kong, Macao, Maldives, and so forth – however I actually imagine that Hong Kong is essentially the most cutthroat meals and beverage market on the earth.”

His declare isn’t baseless.

Getting the opening proper is important in Hong Kong as a result of its competitiveness.

The town is incessantly named because the world’s costliest rental location. And Hong Kong residents are a few of – if not the – greatest spenders on eating out, particularly pre-Covid. Meals imports are extraordinarily costly.

In accordance with a latest authorities survey, Hong Kong households spent a median of HKD60,539 (or US$7,761) on meals out and takeaway meals within the 12 months of 2019 to 2020 – Hong Kong suffered from half a 12 months of social unrest in 2019 earlier than the outbreak of Covid in 2020

That was about double what New York-area family spent on common on meals away from residence throughout the identical 12 months.

“It’s such a condensed market,” says Wu.

“Individuals at all times speak. Hong Kong clients are additionally very educated. For those who don’t get it proper from the get-go, it’s a must to revamp many issues. The query is – will the purchasers offer you a second probability? There are such a lot of selections that chances are high they’d go some place else.

“So to construct a profitable restaurant, it’s essential to verify the opening is a powerful one. With good phrase of mouth then companies will come. It’s that easy.”

Working example: Bluhouse. It opened in June and dinner reservations are full by means of October and November on the time of the writing.

Hong Kong’s F&B business has advanced quickly within the final decade, thanks partly to the arrival of Michelin Information in 2009 in addition to the rise of social media and the native meals group.

Cooks in Hong Kong have skilled a shift of their roles.

“Some 20 years in the past, cooks principally simply cooked and served meals,” says Wu.

“Now in 2022, there’s additionally this factor known as relationship constructing. Cooks have to point out their faces. They’ve to the touch the tables and to take photos with visitors. The job of a chef is far larger than earlier than. All of it goes again to a necessity for human connection. Clients, media, influencers, bloggers – everybody desires to have a human connection.”

And it simply makes good enterprise sense – visitors usually tend to return to a restaurant the place they’ve established a relationship with the chef.

The issue, after all, is that chatting with diners doesn’t come naturally to all cooks. That’s the place Wu is available in.

“We simply encourage and encourage and encourage them,” he says.

He cites Manav Tuli of recent Indian restaurant Chaat – which can also be situated on the Rosewood – as successful story. Chaat opened in 2020 and received its first Michelin star two years later.

Chef Manav Tuli of Rosewood Hong Kong restaurant Chaat.

Distinctive dishes like Tuli’s showstopping tandoori lobster – Indian meals with a Hong Kong seafood twist – and a workforce of educated workers which communicates the tales of the meals fantastically are among the causes Chaat is considered one of Hong Kong’s hardest to ebook eating places.

Tables are launched two months upfront and swept up in minutes.

However the greatest star of Chaat is Tuli, thought-about one of many metropolis’s most beloved culinary figures proper now.

“When he arrived two years in the past, he didn’t know the panorama or tradition of Hong Kong,” mentioned Wu. “He’s a quiet individual however we align in a sure manner as we each have a drive. For him, shifting his household to Hong Kong with him, he desires to make this successful. So we’ve been working very carefully since day one on that,” mentioned Wu.

He inspired Tuli to fulfill the visitors and fellow cooks, becoming a member of him at occasions and meals because the chef constructed a reputation for himself.

Wu recently organized a collaboration dinner between Chaat  and Forum, a Michelin three-star Cantonese restaurant.

On his days off, Wu organizes lunches for media, together with revered business critics, and cooks he works with or may fit with sooner or later.

These typically happen at venues Wu doesn’t work for, from Hop Sze, a no-frills Cantonese diner that has a six-month wait listing, to the Discussion board Restaurant, a Chinese language joint with three Michelin stars.

“I labored til 4 a.m [this morning]. I solely joined as a result of Geoffrey Wu organized this lunch,” one meals critic tells CNN Journey as he enters the non-public eating room inside Discussion board.

The menu of the day contains all types of dishes – from avenue food-style rice rolls to traditional Cantonese candy and bitter pork and the restaurant’s well-known braised abalone.

As with most lunches with Wu, there’s additionally an off-menu shock.

Adam Wong, the manager chef, and CK Poon, the final supervisor, are available with a pushcart close to the top of the meal.

“We’re considering of including this to the following menu replace,” says Poon as he caramelizes sugar for the candied apple fritter (ba si apple), a Northern Chinese language-style dessert, on-site.”It’s the primary time we’re doing this – so tell us what you suppose.”

The five-hour lunch wraps up with business gossip over bottles of cognac.

However Wu is rarely not working.

He punctuates gatherings with potential collaboration concepts (Tuli and Wong exchanged concepts that day on a hookup between the 2 eating places), and fills in moments of silence with jokes to maintain the meal entertaining.

“I at all times say that I’m the chief leisure officer,” says Wu. “Constructing relationships takes time. Chilly-calling and sending press releases aren’t constructing a relationship.”

Wu recently worked with Yong Fu, an award-winning high-end Ningbo restaurant, to help refine its menu for local tastes.

On the finish of the day, connections received’t get you far if the meals isn’t good or the restaurant refuses to evolve.

“Taste doesn’t lie,” says Wu. “However every thing – eating places, bars, cooks – has a shelf life. It’s unimaginable to remain primary perpetually. It is advisable to preserve developing with new concepts to proceed to raise the restaurant.”

It could possibly be doing extra tableside providers, educating visitors concerning the dishes, or just including a pre-dessert chew that cleanses the palate, he says.

One in all Wu’s newest duties is to edit the menu at considered one of his new purchasers, Yong Fu, a Michelin-starred restaurant that focuses on high-end delicacies from China’s east coast Ningbo area.

He’d wish to trim down the unique one-inch-thick ebook and has created a tasting menu to supply a extra curated ordering expertise.

In Hong Kong, Ningbo cuisine is often confused with Shanghai cuisine. Hence, Wu has worked with Yong Fu to create a tasting menu for the local diners.

In Hong Kong, Ningbo delicacies is usually confused with Shanghai delicacies. The tasting menu contains dishes that diners might not know sufficient about to order – a “sticky” boiled wax gourd and yellow croaker fish in bitter broth, for instance – that amplify the trinity of Ningbo delicacies’s star flavors: “savory, umami and sticky.”

Yu Qiong, Yong Fu’s supervisor, is there to supply an in-depth rationalization on every of the dishes.

“These are among the issues that can enrich the entire eating expertise,” says Wu. He compares advertising eating places with working: “Maintain refining. Maintain pushing. My perception is, simply don’t cease till you’re on the ending line.”

It’s an apt metaphor. The avid runner wakes up at 5:45 a.m. on most days to slot in train.

“I get pleasure from Hong Kong on quiet mornings when the town hasn’t woken up but. If you run, you see plenty of issues and take into consideration plenty of issues,” says Wu.

As for what was on his thoughts that exact morning?

“I used to be fascinated about our interview. I used to be fascinated about not swearing. I did effectively – I solely swore as soon as.”

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.