Luca Fantin, Tokyo
The Italian native worked in some of the world’s best restaurants including Cracco in Milan and Mugaritz in Spain before arriving in Japan to train under Seiji Yamamoto at three-Michelin-starred Nihonryori RyuGin. Today, he is chef de cuisine of one-Michelin-starred Bvlgari Il Ristorante Luca Fantin in Tokyo.
“I’ve been a chef for 26 years and I have seen different cultures rise to the forefront: first French, then Spanish, followed by Nordic. To me, the next trend will be focusing on what's essential on a plate—focusing on the ingredients with a minimal presentation. There will also be less fat, less butter. This will also be a direction I am pursuing going forward; keeping only the essentials lets you deliver a clearer message.
Also, I have three kids so I think we can definitely do better to create a better world for the next generation, like cutting single-use plastic, returning the polyfoam boxes to my fish suppliers for reuse and ditching plastic bottled water for water filtration systems like Nordaq, which I first learned about during my recent trip to The Landmark, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong.”
Richard Ekkebus is the culinary director at the renowned two-Michelin-starred Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, which just served its last dinner in December 2018 and will reopen with an exciting new concept in May 2019.
“Amber will reopen in May 2019, and in the gap months, some of the team members will be relocated to other properties under the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, and I will bring some of them to pop-ups in different cities to research further, so when all of us regather again in May, we make a stronger team. And we will set up a test kitchen in Wong Chuk Hang in mid-February to test the new menu. I don't want Amber to be a museum, I want it to stay relevant. Fourteen years ago, Amber opened and disturbed the status quo, and we want to keep provoking in the next 14 years.
Going forward, I think eating more vegetables will be the way to go. While we thought the protein kingdom was big, we haven't fully
explored herbs and the vegetable kingdom—there's much potential waiting for us to discover and it's also important to reduce our carbon footprint.”
Seiji Yamamoto, Tokyo
Seiji Yamamoto is one of Japan’s most revered chefs with a restaurant empire that includes three-Michelin-starred Nihonryori RyuGin in Tokyo, two-starred Tenku RyuGin in Hong Kong and two-starred Shoun RyuGin in Taipei.
“There have been a lot of chef collaborations. It may be a trend but it’s one I do not believe in. It's better to experience the cooking of each chef alone—50% and 50% does not equate to 100%, and this is why I did not and will not participate in any of these collaborations—although I foresee they will still prevail in the coming year.
My resolution for 2019 will be giving my new staff good training. We moved to Hibiya last August and with a bigger space, we have some new team members. There are over 1,000 restaurants in Tokyo but my customer chooses to dine at our place, I want to make the experience good, hence I want to devote my time to train my staff well."
The 37-year-old was handpicked by his mentor Seiji Yamamoto to helm Shoun RyuGin in Taipei. His masterful blend of classic Japanese technique with unique Taiwanese produce led to the restaurant being awarded two Michelin stars when the guide was launched in Taipei in 2018.
Thitid "Ton" Tassanakajohn, Bangkok
Trained at the renowned Culinary Institute of America and having cut his teeth at celebrated restaurants like Eleven Madison Park, The Modern and Jean-Georges in New York, chef Ton is one of the frontrunners of contemporary Thai cuisine in Bangkok, attaining a Michelin star in the MICHELIN Guide Bangkok 2019 for his fine-dining restaurant Le Du.
Besides his three-Michelin-starred flagship Frantzén in Stockholm, the chef and restaurateur also runs Frantzen’s Kitchen and The Flying Elk in Hong Kong and Zén in Singapore.
Since the closure of his two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Andre in Singapore in 2018, Andre Chiang has returned to his home country of Taiwan to delve deeper into his roots and train a new generation of chefs at his one-Michelin-starred restaurant RAW in Taipei.
David Kinch is the executive chef and owner of one of California’s most iconic restaurants, three-Michelin-starred Manresa in the San Francisco Bay Area, which was reborn in September 2018 after a devastating fire. Kinch also recently created a dish for The MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong Macau 2019 Gala Dinner.
“We had a fire this year at the restaurant and it was closed for two months in the summer. That was very impactful professionally and personally, stepping back for two months in the busiest part of the year, two months before Michelin was going to come out. I like to think that the way we approached this barrier and the way we dealt with it as a team made us a better restaurant when we did reopen. Manresa now is a better restaurant than it’s been in its 16 years of history. That makes me very happy, very blessed.
We have a couple of exciting projects in 2019; they’re casual concepts close to my heart. For me, casual is a lot more fun. It offers opportunities for people who have worked with me for a long time that I want to continue to
keep challenged and compensated. I’m very, very excited for the New Year.
On the culinary scene, these days chefs tend to follow cultures and trends rather than their own instincts—I think that’s a terrible mistake. If you want to make a lasting impact, then you will have to cook what you believe in.”