By Cathy Yang
HONG KONG, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Three-star Michelin Chef Sven Elverfeld has made his name as one of the pioneers of modern German cooking, but his first-ever visit to Hong Kong inspired him with new techniques, new implements and food he described as "amazing."
The 44-year-old German, one of the youngest European chefs to win three Michelin stars, spent several nights in the Asian city serving up cutting-edge modern European cuisine with a regional twist inspired by his early start in Hanau, Germany.
Known for cooking based on German traditions but with modern touches and currently Chef de Cuisine at Aqua in the Ritz-Carlton in Wolfsburg, Germany, Elverfeld recently spoke with Reuters about what got him hooked on cooking and his views on Hong Kong dining.
Q: What inspired you to be a chef?
A: "What first inspired me was the smell of my mother cooking lunch when my brother and I returned from school. Another motivation for me was baking traditional Christmas cookies or cakes with my mother. I started at the age of 16 with a three year apprenticeship at a pastry and confectionary shop. After that I did another apprenticeship for two years as a chef.
"Each and every day in my work I endeavor to give unforgettable moments and pleasure to people. This is my definition of happiness. Indeed, I cannot imagine working at something that does not challenge me either intellectually, physically or with regard to my craftsmanship."
Q: What are your interests in the world of cuisine - what would you like to explore that you haven't gone into yet?
A: "I am glad I started traveling a lot around the world when I was younger. I find that each country has something to offer: unique products, different cooking techniques, flavor... I am always open minded and very curious about interesting food cultures and their products. But of course, I like to look back to my German culture in some of my dishes.
Q: How did you come up with the menu that you had prepared in Hong Kong? What inspiration went into creating the flavours?
A: "We used some of our Aqua signature dishes. The dishes I chose to use displayed my personal memories of traveling to different countries in my past. I also served on the menu a deconstructed version of a traditional northern German dish, Sole Modern Finkenwerder Style. It is important to me that my guests are going on a culinary journey around the world."
Q: What fascinated you in your trip to Hong Kong?
A: "We visited many different traditional restaurants that featured extremely interesting Chinese cuisine. My team and I also had a beautiful dinner at the famous restaurant Amber with chef Richard Ekkebus. But I believe that this is only a small taste of what Hong Kong has to offer the world of cuisine. I hope I get the chance to return again in the future."
Q: Which dishes did you find most interesting?
A: "It was very interesting to see and taste so many different flavors from the simple street food to the Michelin stared restaurant. There all have their own character and through this Hong Kong has a huge range. So it was the diversity that amazed me. A great sample for a Chinese dish that my team and I will remember was the amazing BBQ pork from restaurant Tin Lung Heen, which got his second star during our visit. Also an outstanding menu and wine experience was restaurant Amber with chefs Richard Ekkebus and Sidney Schutte.
Q: What new culinary ideas did you gain from his brief visit in Hong Kong, considered one of the densest locations of Michelin-starred restaurants?
A: "There are always influences exerted by personal memories. Overall, there were a lot of interesting flavor-pairings, but what impressed me most are a lot of new different techniques and equipment that the chefs are using. This gives me new ideas to think about and maybe use with my team in the kitchen at restaurant Aqua."
To serve four
400-500 gram (roughly 1 pound) piece of topside from Muritz lamb
80 g (1/3 cup) mirepoix
10 ml(2 teaspoons) dry white wine
1/2 clove garlic
1 bay leaf
1 juniper berry
1 allspice berry
2 white peppercorns
Freshly milled white pepper
light lamb stock
Trim the meat carefully and put the trimmings in a pot with the mirepoix, white wine, garlic, spices and some water, and bring to the boil. Season the topside with salt and white pepper and brown briefly on all sides so that the pores close. Then put it into the boiling stock. Immediately reduce heat to 85 C (185 F) and cook gently until the meat slides slowly from the fork.
Cover the meat with a damp teacloth and put it in the refrigerator to cool. When it has cooled, vacuum in a vacuum bag. Just before serving, remove meat from the bag and cut into slices 5 mm thick. Then cut the slices into rectangles of 3.5 cm by 11 cm. Before serving, heat the slices in a little reduced lamb stock. Finally, glaze with a brushing of thickened lamb stock and season with some sea salt. (Reporting by Cathy Yang, editing by Elaine Lies)