This article originally appeared in the latest May edition of Foodie: Jamie's Hong Kong. Read it here!
When he stopped by to check on one of Hong Kong's favourite restaurants, Vasco, we grabbed him for a chat about his heritage, his cooking and his thoughts on Hong Kong’s cuisine.
What makes the region of Basque an amazing place to cook in?
The Basque Country has a privileged geography bathed by the Cantabrian Sea, which provides us with exceptional products that makes everything in the kitchen much easier. It is well known that the kitchen reflects the produce that is available and in the Basque region we have wonders from all sides, in the sea, mountains, orchards, etc. It is also a society drenched in gastronomy and that is also an incentive when cooking, people really appreciate the effort we make to innovate and pursue excellence.
Do the people of San Sebastian have different wants to other regions of the world you have cooked in?
The Basques generally live through the kitchen, both physically (in that it is the main room of the house) and restoratively. Almost everything revolves around a table and its pleasures. We received a very rich heritage, with quality products, and I think we have been able to add to that. This is also due to the bond that exists between the cooks, the desire to improve, to know what was done was and to learn and improve.
Where are your favourite places to eat in the world?
There are many. I have the good fortune to be able to travel frequently due to my job and have tried exciting cuisines in many parts of the world. I am fascinated by, among others, Italian, French, Spanish food of course, Chinese, Japanese, and I was amazed at my last trip to Hong Kong at the culinary level that pervades the city, very cosmopolitan and open to many influences, making it truly unique.
What do you think of Hong Kong's dining scene?
Being by the sea and drinking in many influences makes it a very rich and extraordinary place. The cuisine is vast, almost incomprehensible, and something that also caught my attention was a passion for fresh products, another incentive for a really interesting dining scene.
Which chefs do you feel are truly doing something different with their cuisine?
There are countless chefs who do extraordinary things that reflect his personality, his way of seeing things and life, which is something different forever. Creative and innovative cuisine has taken a giant leap in recent decades, Spain is a great example of this, there are so many chefs recognized in this field that it would be impossible to list them all.
What is your favourite ingredient to cook with?
Extra virgin olive oil seems to be one of the foundations of our kitchen.
What is the worst thing you have ever plated up?
I've never plated something I do not like. I do plenty of testing to come up with the formula so there is very little room for mistakes in our kitchen.
What is your guilty pleasure?
There are times when I get home late after a night service with a voracious hunger and I prepare sandwiches like sardines with fresh cheese -yummy!
Do you have one piece of advice for aspiring chefs?
Working with passion and great discipline - these are the two ingredients any chef worth his/her salt needs to bring their dreams forward.