Michelin Starred Chef Mok Kit Keung spends a few minutes with The Yum List…
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
As the Executive Chinese Chef of Shang Palace, I oversee all Chinese food produced at the hotel to ensure its quality. I am responsible for a team of 30 Chinese chefs, most of whom have been working at Shang Palace for at least 10 to 20 years. I started my culinary career at a very young age. Both my father and his brother were chefs. Once when I was visiting my uncle, he encouraged me to follow the family career and started teaching me recipes that I had never experienced before. At the beginning, I kept my studies during the night and cooked by day but eventually I decided to dedicate all my time to cooking.
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
One interesting thing that happened to me was on my recent return visit to the Lion City as the guest chef at Shangri-La Singapore. I was training the Chinese kitchen staff how to apply creativity skills in their cooking. This was my final lesson to them just before I was about to fly back to Hong Kong so before I left, my team cooked me a farewell dinner. This included many specialties of Singapore, including what I thought was abalone. As I took a bite out of this dish I suddenly realized not only that it was made out of flour but, that the team members were all huddled at the kitchen window laughing at the expression on my face. Although I was the butt of this joke, I felt proud that they had listened to me and used their creativity. The fake abalone was extremely convincing, they had drawn every little detail on with food colouring to fool me.
What’s the best part of your job?
I enjoy delighting the customers with my creations. Seeing the smiles on their faces is the reason I cook and is the best part of my job. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction.
What’s the best thing about working in Shang Palace?
The best thing about working in Shang Palace has to be the teamwork. My kitchen team consists of professional chefs who are receptive to the new ideas that I am bringing to the table. I am honoured to have a key role in further contributing to the success of this well-established reputable restaurant.
What’s your personal favourite dish at Shang Palace?
To be honest, I love all my signature dishes. But as I have mentioned, I love delighting the customers, so the most popular is always my favourite. I recently went on a trip to Singapore where I cooked the Braised Spare Rib with Chin Kiang Vinegar, this dish received positive feedback. The guests commented that the vinegar sauce added a perfect touch of sweetness to the tender spare rib. This creation impressed them so I really enjoy cooking it at the moment.
What’s your favoured food and alcohol pairing?
My favourite alcoholic drink is white wine and it goes very well with fish in general. Out of my signature dishes, I would recommend Oven Baked Cod Fillet with Egg White and Conpoy to pair with white wines.
Tell us a story about one of the dishes you prepare…
Crispy lobster with oatmeal is one of my signature dishes in Shang Palace. A tender piece of lobster is aptly fried till golden brown in colour, sprinkled with crispy and sweet oatmeal imported from Singapore, and beautifully placed in a rice paper fish net.
I believe that every chef needs some unique elements in one’s dish to set him or her apart from others. The type of oatmeal that I use is specially imported from Singapore, this is my unique element and this creation is available exclusively at Shang Palace. The sweetness of oatmeal matches perfectly with the fresh taste and chewy texture of lobster, making it a tantalising treat.
The perfect day off would be…
A perfect day off is best spent with my family. My working hours are always long due to the job nature. I try to spend as much time as possible relaxing with them whenever I’m off.
A life in the day of a chef is…
My daily routine in the kitchen starts with checking the e-mail. Then I have a briefing with the other executive chefs. After this, I check my kitchen making sure that it is ready for full action, and I conducting a briefing with my team. Food preparation and tasting are the next step before service begins. During service I will visit the restaurant to get instant feedback from my customers. I like to check if they are satisfied and enjoying their food, if not then I ask how they would have wanted the food to be like. After that I will go for my late lunch, and return to my office to complete paper work. This routine repeats in the evening, except for the paper work, unless it is necessary.
What do you do for fun?
I go to Tai Po Market – this market offers a great choice of fresh produce and seasonal ingredients. I like exploring what’s on offer in the market as I visit it a lot, because of this, the vendors are good acquaintances, so I can always have a good chat with them to get the latest information, and insights into the ingredients.
What’s something you’d like guests to know about the cuisine prepared at Shang Palace?
My cuisine represents the evolution of Chinese cooking. I like to demonstrate how Chinese cooking now, often incorporates western ingredients which would not have been done previously. For example Foie gras is included on our menu although it is a French specialty. Other western ingredients that I like are Swiss black garlic and Italian black truffle.
How do you select your ingredients and why?
In selecting ingredients, I always follow one of my favourite food philosophies – Eat what’s in season. I find the best ingredients the season has to offer, I wish to bring diners the freshest flavour. Featuring a variety of dishes with different in-season ingredients throughout the year, allows me to surprise my guests with new creations that showcase the uniqueness of each ingredient from time to time.
What’s your view on the restaurant scene in Hong Kong?
Nowadays, the camera comes in handy. Noticing a common phenomenon of “camera eats before the customer eats”, I realize and foresee the presentation of dishes is and will continue to be very important to diners as they love taking pictures and sharing them on social media. Aesthetic presentation elevates the dining enjoyment and entices customers into experiencing the tastes and smells of my creations.
What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months?
In January, I am going to welcome guests at Shang Palace with a variety of delicacies made using succulent Ancelin oyster from France. Following that will be the most important festival in the Chinese calendar; the Chinese New Year, where a selection of traditional Chinese New year puddings, goodies and hampers will be available in store. This year, I have specially created a few new auspicious items to make the Year of the Horse a memorable one. A range of classic dim sum specialties is also on offer.