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PEOPLE

Taikoo Place Insiders: Christian Mongendre of TREEHOUSE

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More than a decade ago, Christian Mongendre launched his first plant-based fast-casual restaurant in Hong Kong. His energy, determined spirit and uncompromising commitment to high quality whole foods have earned the Paul Bocuse-trained chef a reputation as one of the city’s champions of healthy, sustainable eating. As Mongendre launches a new branch of his TREEHOUSE healthy fast-food outlet in Taikoo Place, the Hong Kong-born French-American entrepreneur talks to us about his mission to create a positive, plant-based cuisine for Hong Kongers… and shared his nostalgia for a vegetable that is also a flower.

 

For 11 years, you’ve been a champion of sustainable eating and living in a city where such ideas are–unfortunately–not yet mainstream and still gaining traction. What keeps you going?

It all started because I had a personal need for this kind of high quality, healthy, everyday food, but I realised Hong Kong didn’t have anything like it. Being born in Hong Kong, I have always wanted to start a business here. I opened TREEHOUSE and all of my previous restaurants because of my belief in promoting a sustainable, conscious and healthy lifestyle. Despite the past few years being extra challenging in Hong Kong, I still feel strongly about this mission. Right now Hong Kong needs a conscious lifestyle more than ever.

 

Why did you choose the Taikoo Place neighbourhood for your first TREEHOUSE restaurant outside of Central?

We believe there is a fantastic, loving and supportive community here and we would like to connect with them through our presence here in the heart of Taikoo. And of course we hope to be able to feed a lot of office-goers with high quality and healthy food!

 

Tell us more about what’s on tap at TREEHOUSE.

We’re excited to bring the highest quality food made with the best whole ingredients to Taikoo Place. We’ll make it easy and convenient for busy office-goers to eat healthy delicious food. We have a new breakfast menu so you can kick off your busy day with savoury vegan croissants, or a variety of sourdough open toast selections. We also offer a 100% organic coffee made with locally roasted beans!

 

The person who has changed my life the most is…

Me! While it is nice to have support and ideas from others, I believe it is most important to allow yourself to change and evolve. Other people can be the catalyst for your changes. But we need to be able to notice our own flaws and strengths and then use that to learn, improve, adapt and transform. My parents have also shaped who I am. They gave me a really caring and loving environment to grow up in, and taught me the importance of nature, our health and our community.

 

If I were a vegetable, I would be a _____ because...

An artichoke! It’s my favourite vegetable and it is also a flower. It’s also nostalgic for me. My father used to make me the best artichokes and I still vividly remember how obsessed I was with them.

 

Coffee, tea, soy latte or…

Lately my go to drink has been the iced coffee from TREEHOUSE with a little oat milk. During the hot HK summer it’s the perfect cooler and energy booster.

 

You are French-American but born in Hong Kong—what is the most “Hong Kong” part of your personality?

I would say my most HK part is my connection with Chinese and HK local food. Dim sum is my ultimate comfort food and I crave it all the time.

 

…And the most “French” part?

My French side you will find in my culinary training, my understanding of what quality is and my understanding of the notion of “terroir” – it helps me understand not just the geographical origin of the food, but also the cultural, social and environmental dimension of the provenance of our ingredients. My French origins and training allowed me to be diligent in pursuing high standards without fear or compromise, even in challenging circumstances.

You’ve trained as a chef in classical French technique with Paul Bocuse, then switched tracks and became plant-based. Tell us about the moment when you realised that this was a change you wanted to make in your life.

In fact, when I was 16, even before I started cooking school, I already knew I wanted to create a McDonald’s for plant based food. Working at Michelin restaurants I learned how to pursue the highest quality in sourcing ingredients, hygiene, etc. I also learned how to create plant-based food that is appealing to everybody. Even though I was already a vegan when I was in cooking school, I still took the opportunity to try different kinds of meat dishes because to me it is important to understand what appeals to people. In the end, we are trying to change people’s eating habits by offering them great flavour and texture they will understand and enjoy.

 

I most admire people who…

Are relentless. People who overcome their doubts, work hard, commit. And who go for what they believe in.

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