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FOOD

Cantonese fine dining - Catching up with the chefs of The Refinery

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By Arthur Tam

“I just love to eat; that’s why I got into the business,” says Jacky Chan, head chef at The Refinery, Taikoo Place's new private members' club. "Just after secondary school, a friend's relative convinced me that I would like working in a kitchen because of all the food that was available. So I started cooking and, 30 years later, I still love what I do."

Chan is an expert in Cantonese cuisine, having been trained at a number of different high-end restaurants, which included ones located in different branches of the Peninsula Hotels. Most notably Cuisine Cuisine in the Mira hotel was awarded two Michelin stars during his time there. But during his peak, he had to quit due to his father’s failing health.

“You only have one dad,” says Chan. “I decided to take a break from cooking and dedicate myself full time in taking care of my father during his final days. I made the right decision.” You can tell from speaking with Chan that he’s a warm, soulful and sensitive man, something that shines through in his cooking.

At The Refinery, he’s created an innovative Cantonese menu, incorporating a range of different culinary influences. One of the most notable dishes is his pumpkin with crab meat and truffle shrimp quenelle, aka ‘The Eastern Pearl’. He won the gold award for this dish at a competition hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board in collaboration with the Chinese Culinary Institute. “The judges thought that the dish was creative and also represented Hong Kong’s identity,” says Chan. “Soup is a very important aspect of Cantonese cuisine, but I wanted to give it a contemporary twist using different ingredients and plating it differently.”

At the centre of the soup is a smooth and springy shrimp paste ball made with truffle, which represents a pearl. Complementing it is the smooth and sensual pumpkin soup with bits of crab meat for a visually stunning dish with delicate flavours. “I wanted to create something special for the members here, many of whom have been with me since the days of the former club – Butterfield's,” says Chan. “What's unique about working at a members' club is getting to know your customers and having that intimate experience.”

Other favourites on the menu that Chan says we must try are the deep-fried chicken with garlic and crispy rice, pan-fried spotted garoupa fillets with spring onion in teriyaki sauce and sautéed Iberico pork cubes with fresh figs in aged vinegar sauce.

Looking ahead, Chan tells us that the menu will change seasonally with new interpretations to classics. In autumn he’s excited to introduce his version of pork rib claypot rice, where he steams the rice with rosebuds to create a gorgeous aroma. ‘I guarantee that you’ll be seduced by the smell,’ he says.

Joining Chan in the kitchen is dim sum chef Lam Kwok-keung, whose former restaurant The Boss received a Michelin star during his tenure.

“Very much like Jacky, I got into the food industry at the recommendation of a relative," he says. "I wasn’t doing too well in school, so I decided to cook, and now I've been doing it for 20 years."

Anyone who knows dim sum knows it's a labour of love. Dim sum chefs wake up at 4am to meticulously mould and stuff bite-sized dumplings and pastries – and it's no exception for Lam, who has thought of creative ways to update traditional dishes at The Refinery. “At this club, we have customers with an international background and high expectations,” he says. “So, I'm making sure that we can create new dishes for people to try while maintaining consistent quality.”

A few of his specialities include the steamed Shanghainese dumplings with pork and langoustine soup, deep-fried puff pastry with black pepper wagyu beef, and deep-fried pork dumplings with black truffle paste shaped like a piggy. Our favourite is the nourishing superior pork and shrimp coconut soup dumpling served in a coconut shell. It's fancy, unique, luxurious dim sum. Lam says: “The dishes are either something you rarely see anywhere else or something that's served only here.”

To taste the creative dishes at The Refinery sign up for a membership. Find out about the details here.

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