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Hong Kong is pure energy. Every part of the city seems to be hurling into uncharted territory. So what keeps the intoxication from tipping into full-fledged drunkenness? A deeply rooted sense of history. Massive Buddha statues and food stalls rub elbows with state-of-the-art subway systems and sparkling skyscrapers. The culinary scene in Hong Kong is no exception. The cigar-smoking Michelin chef Alvin Leung serves beautiful modern cuisine at Bo Innovation, while down the street a grandmother is selling some of the most amazing dim sum you’ll ever eat out of a food stall. The contrasts end up working together to give Hong Kong—and its cuisine—the feeling of being groundbreaking and fully grounded at the same time.
All this to say that innovation is built on a strong foundation. And our chefs had to learn that on the fly this week. Not only did they need to create truly innovative food, they needed to satisfy locals with an understanding of the region’s complex flavors.
Food evolves. Think back when food presentation went vertical. Chefs were scrambling to create gravity-defying towers of protein; diners went wild. The same is going on with molecular gastronomy today. Whether they’re using agars and liquid nitrogen or sous vide techniques, chefs are changing what we think of food. Just look at how the Demon Chef’s tasting menu invigorated our chefs. They were practically skipping out the door of Bo Innovation.But brilliant innovation isn’t in the nitrogen container. It’s understanding the food you’re working with enough that you can turn it on its head. I loved John’s enthusiasm for making lime snow, but in his excitement, he forgot that the whole plate needed to hang together. And more importantly, that snow melts when it hits a hot plate. Nicole had the opposite problem. Too insecure to try something new, her Smoked Duck with Green Tea and Squid Noodles was tasty but too boring and safe by comparison. Congratulations to Avery for striking the right balance of flavors and truly surprising presentation in the Mango Coulis, Ginger Cookie with Lemongrass-Coconut Sphere.
Best of luck, Nicole. For the rest of us, let’s go to South America!