Sustainability has become a buzzword among chefs in recent years — but just how can chefs bring this concept to life, not just in a single restaurant kitchen but in a grand banquet setting? More than 500 diners and food industry insiders in Hong Kong and Macau got a taste of the possibilities when seven acclaimed guest chefs from around the world came together to create a seven-course menu centred around the theme "Sustainability Through Motion" for the MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong Macau 2020 Gala Dinner on 17 December.
The one-night-only roster of star chefs in the kitchen of the City of Dreams, Macau included Kelvin Au Yeung of three-MICHELIN-starred Jade Dragon, Fabrice Vulin of two-MICHELIN-starred The Tasting Room and Alain Ducasse of two-MICHELIN-starred Alain Ducasse at Morpheus in Macau, as well as visiting culinary masters Kunio Tokuoka of three-starred Kitcho Arashiyama Honten in Kyoto, Japan, Alex Atala of two-starred D.O.M. in São Paulo, Brazil and Lau Yiu Fai of one-starred Yan Toh Heen in Hong Kong. The evening concluded on a sweet note with sensational French desserts by celebrated pâtissier Pierre Hermé.
Besides the careful selection of sustainably sourced ingredients from fair-trade food producers for the dishes, other eco-friendly measures were also taken in the production of the event to minimise the impact on the environment. These included the use of natural rice husk trays for serving the canapes at the pre-dinner reception, and LED curtain walls for ballroom decor instead of the usual one-use printed event backdrops. Programme brochures were printed on paper certified sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and all the living floral table centrepieces and living plants and bamboo used to decorate the event venue will be replanted in the resort after the event.
We take a look at the seven dishes created by the guest chefs and the inspirations that drove their creation.
Alain Ducasse of two-MICHELIN-starred Alain Ducasse at Morpheus kicked off the evening's feast on a high note with the first course of Chilled Blue Lobster, Rich Nage, Gold Caviar. The combination of ingredients was carefully chosen to reflect the delicate balance and precision that defines contemporary French cooking and its harmony with the planet, according to Ducasse. “The blue lobster in the dish is sustainably sourced from Brittany, and the caviar is from a Chinese producer not too far from Macau, whose farm I have personally visited to ensure that everything is done in a sustainable manner to produce the perfect caviar,” says Ducasse.
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Next, Fabrice Vulin of two-MICHELIN-starred The Tasting Room delighted diners with his starter of Lightly Smoked Salmon, Watercress Cream and Acidulated Beetroot. The farmed Scottish salmon was smoked in-house and coated in a watercress cream, while the pickled beetroot balanced the dish with an acidic lift. The buckwheat tuile added a touch of crunch. Vulin says: “Sustainability is very important for all chefs, who have a major role to play in furthering the message. I think this is the right moment to explain this is a rare product, and a product to keep, for future generations to discover."
Kunio Tokuoka of three-starred Kitcho Arashiyama Honten in Kyoto presented the third course of the evening, simply named Umami Vegetable Soup. The combination of soybeans with the umami notes from the kelp and shiitake mushrooms in the dish created a distinctive flavour, and a moreish dish that is both delicious and wholesome. “Sustainability is not a suggestion, it’s necessary. I would like to offer healthy cuisine while conserving the environment. I strive and try to make food that tackle concerns such as food supply chain,” says Tokuoka.
The next course was Steamed Pork Dumplings With Sea Urchin And Bird's Nest In Pumpkin Broth Topped With Alaskan King Crab Leg by Lau Yiu Fai of one-MICHELIN-starred Yan Toh Heen in Hong Kong. The dish was a powerhouse of prized ingredients sourced from around the world, whose complimentary flavours were deftly woven together in the expert hands of veteran chef Lau. “I have topped up the dish with sustainable Alaskan King Crab," says Lau. "Whether it is the food, the environment, or how I live my everyday life, being sustainable is about finding a balance between them all.”
For the fifth course, Alex Atala of two-starred D.O.M. in Sao Paulo pulled out all the stops with his dish of Baroa Potato, Chocolate And Beluga Caviar. Baroa potato is a staple ingredient of Brazilian cuisine, and has an unmistakable flavour. Atala explains: "Sustainability to me is about creating an ecosystem that flourishes between nature, food and ourselves. By protecting the environment, the animals and the people who live on this planet, we can all flourish together."
The meal reached a crescendo with the main course of Slow Cooked Westholme Wagyu Beef Cheek With Dried Abalone And White Truffles by Kevin Au Yeung of three-MICHELIN-starred Jade Dragon in Macau. The dish is a marriage of the best of land and sea: the beef cheek was slow-cooked for over 24 hours in a marinade of soy sauce and sugar, while the addition of abalone - an essential ingredient of Cantonese cuisine - and shaved white truffle further elevated the dish. “To me, we have to protect the environment we live in in order to achieve sustainable development. We are doing this not only for ourselves, but also for our next generation. We have sourced the finest ingredients only from sustainable farmlands and fish farms for this dish,” says Au Yeung.
Legendary French pastry chef Pierre Hermé ended the evening on a sweet note with his Ultime dessert, which was a decadent showcase of the diverse tastes, temperatures and textures that can be wrought from organic, single origin chocolate from the Norandino Plantation in Peru and organic Madagascar Vanilla. “Not only are the key ingredients in this dessert all organic, but thanks to its chocolate cultivation assistance program, the Norandino cooperative in Peru offers families access to drinking water and supports the reforestation of the region," says Hermé. "The inspiration behind was to create a celebration of taste and delicacies with sustainable resources so that awareness around this cause can grow and that we can enjoy it all together.”