With floor-to-ceiling windows making full use of the prime positioning over Victoria Harbour, maze Grill is off to a superior start in its new Hong Kong home. As usual, with all his HK openings, Gordon Ramsay was there to fire up the grill and field questions about his newest restaurant.
When asked to describe maze Grill in his own words, Ramsay said, “It’s a modern steakhouse, family oriented, with a huge Asian influence. When we opened our first one 12 years ago, in the middle of Mayfair, I drew on cultures from Hong Kong, Singapore, Kyoto, so we had that crossover. Hong Kong’s become a bit of a second home, and it’s been very well received. The design has been beautifully executed and the position is second to none.”
How does he maintain his standards when he’s not here? “We're not running fine dining, and I’m not sitting here dictating to the press that we’re here 16 hours a day in the kitchen. With the infrastructure that we have – globally, we have 2,500 staff, 750 of those in London – we’re back and forth, and this is our fourth Maze Grill. Let’s not shoot too high, let’s not try to pretend and, more importantly, let’s manage the guests’ expectations. It’s not shooting for three Michelin stars, and it’s not going anywhere near a fine-dining concept, so we need to gauge that properly. And there’s an amazing relationship with our staff back and forth. Here it is about maintaining standards on a daily basis. Gareth [Packham, the head chef] is a young, dynamic Northerner who just lives to cook. We share a lot of passion, and it’s an amazing platform for him. And if it’s not good enough, I’ll know about it first before anybody.”
Asked if he had difficulty deciding between Hong Kong and Singapore, Ramsay mused, ”I fell in love with Hong Kong 10 years ago, and Singapore I was developing food for Singapore Airlines 20 years ago. Going out to those hawker markets and understanding that culture of those incredible family-run businesses who would be there at two o’clock in the morning choosing frogs’ legs, and they were cooking them live. Jesus, can you image doing that in London? In Borough Market? Selecting frogs and chopping their legs off and frying them – they’d have you in court the next day. So there’s a lot of synergy in Hong Kong and Singapore, and it’s three hours away, and Macau also.
We’re very lucky here that the culture and respect for food stays and has remained. It hasn’t become somewhat superficial and pathetic, which some of the things happening across Europe are now – it’s gone so far. We’re trying to legislate calories on a menu; we’re taking the pleasure of eating out. Here, we’re not missing the excitement of eating, and Hong Kong and Singapore are a beautiful melting pot. Ethically, they work their asses off, they’re real thoroughbreds, which is a real dream for the kitchen, you know. I look at my working hours in Paris – I was there last week – my chefs are working 35 hours a week; you know, we do that in two days! Having trained there and lived in Paris, working six or seven days a week, I’d never have dreamed of asking my chef to leave early after five hours – you know, it‘s a passion, not a job.
I think it’s a little bit more closer to Malaysia, for me, the style of cuisine there from Singapore, and here, we’re a little bit more oriented around a huge Japanese culture here in Hong Kong, which is refreshing.”
His feelings on social media? Ramsay had this to say, “In May this year, we went past the one-billionth view on YouTube, and 35 million of those were learning how to make scrambled egg. So I’m an unselfish individual that loves teaching. I’ve just launched our second masterclass online. Customers have the right to look behind the scenes of a restaurant, to see the modern-day functions of the bar, what the mixologists are doing; it’s exciting stuff. So when that stuff goes viral, I think that’s really important.”
He went on to say, ”I want to be reviewed every day, so by the time that review comes out, if I’ve made any mistakes, by the second day, I’ve got it right. Long may that intrusion of social media continue.”
Maze Grill Hong Kong
Well known for his traditional dishes like beef Wellington, we asked Ramsay whether he’ll embrace more alternative proteins in the future. “We've just gone past our two-millionth burger; no doubt I’ll be sued in six months for making someone fat on my burger [laughs]. Plant-based burgers – huge phenomenon. The scrutiny is important in our world. Tasting those plant-based patties, I was blown away, really blown away. I don’t think we should be made to feel guilty indulging in a burger; it's not something we do on a daily basis.”
It’s not a trend – it’s here to stay. – Gordon Ramsay on plant-based burgers
“So it’s not a trend; it’s here to stay. But we shouldn’t make each other feel guilty about becoming a carnivore or becoming plant based. It’s just something we need to adapt on our menus, smartly, and make sure we stay on point. Because this is not a trend. This is something that’s here to stay and needs to be adapted in every kitchen across the globe. Having three daughters, it’s about their friend circle, and they can’t feel guilty about going out for a pizza or a burger. But they’ve fallen in love with plant based seven or eight months ago, and it’s something that we’re studying on a daily basis.”
Gordon Ramsay with our Foodie editors at the opening of Bread Street Kitchen Hong Kong in 2015
About whether he worries his daughter Tilly might eclipse his fame with her own [Tilly cooks on her own CBBC TV programme, Matilda and the Ramsay Bunch, which has been going since 2014], he explained proudly, “Tilly has got no idea how good she is. We don’t keep them in a bubble; we’re quite real with them. What she’s done on CBBC, reaching that demo of six to ten year olds, is pretty incredible. I was never very good in school – I wasn’t strong in English, I wasn’t strong in Math and I certainly wasn’t strong in French. Watching young kids cook with confidence is important to socially connect as teenagers and watching those characters form – and it’s not about A stars and graduation. I don’t think anyone should be pigeon-holed because you didn’t get a GCSE or an A star. So food in our house was the education. And so it’s bringing those characters up and the confidence to hold their own in a room full of strangers through food. So if she’s as successful, more successful, than I am, I’ll be over the moon. And if that’s my daughter, I just want to say, God help any guy that’s going to date her, because if he cooks a sh*t dinner, he’s in trouble.”
Ramsay’s first Hong Kong restaurant, Bread Street Kitchen, was formerly located on Wyndham Street. When the lease expired, it wasn’t renewed because the entire building is being turned into a WeWork office. The new location is another premium spot on the ground floor of The Peak Galleria leading on to the plaza. Bread Street Kitchen will reopen in January 2019.
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