Before most Hong Kong residents have sleepwalked their way to the kitchen to brew their first cup of coffee, NOC resident head chef, Patrick, has been up haggling with wet market vendors to source fresh and organic produce to serve at our two brunch locations across Hong Kong.
From behind the glass viewing box of our Roastery in Sai Ying Pun, Chef Patrick orchestrates his team in the kitchen to serve a clean, nourishing menu that complements, rather than distracts from, the aromas of our perfectly roasted beans.
We got up early (like, really early) and followed Patrick around for the day to learn more about the process behind serving up Hong Kong’s best brunch. Here’s what we discovered:
We started at Patrick’s go-to urban veggie patch: Graham Street Wet Market. Because he uses a mix of Western and Asian vegetables on NOC’s menu, Graham Street is the perfect place to buy everything in one go.
What goes into selecting the best ingredients?
I strive to serve light eats that pair well with coffee, meaning I want to avoid anything that tastes too strong or pungent. It is also one of our main goals to make homemade, healthy meals for our customers – that’s why I make all our dressings and sauces using organic, seasonal produce as much as I can.
How do you choose your produce?
Our first store is on Graham Street, and there are a few suppliers at the wet market there from whom I have been buying produce since it all started. Not only do they offer a wide variety of produce from all over the world, they are also extremely friendly and always happy to share their knowledge with me. After the few years we have been working together, they seem more like my friends than just my suppliers. I go back to the market every Monday to say hi, check out the seasonal produce and ask the suppliers for recommendations.
Describe Hong Kong’s produce.
Since we have always been a city where East meets West, we have access to a wide variety of produce from all over the world at wet markets and supermarkets. As a chef, I am grateful for the variety of produce we get in Hong Kong that’s available at a reasonable price, and this definitely helps when I am trying to come up with new recipes.
After we finished up at the wet market, we headed back to the Roastery, where all the action happens.
Describe the food-prep process.
It’s extremely important for us to achieve speed, consistency and quality in the kitchen. Once the morning’s fresh produce has been delivered, the kitchen team work hard to make sure all the day’s food prep is ready to go before our first customers arrive. This means that we can prepare and serve food fast and fresh as soon as the orders come in.
Refined cooking skills, a hard work ethic and, above all, a passion for food are what I look for in my kitchen team. We have a high standard for everything we do at NOC, including how we put together every last detail of our dishes. I train every new team member one-to-one to ensure that our high standard is maintained across our all our stores.
Describe the process of preparing Hong Kong’s favourite brunch dish, the avo smash.
Start by picking a ripe avocado – it will have a lot more taste and you will be able to create a smoother smash. Remove the skin and seed of the avocado and smash it with a potato masher in a mixing bowl. As you smash, season with salt, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice so that the avocado tastes less grassy and more refreshing. Put two slices of your favourite sourdough toast into the toaster and toast until they are golden and crisp on the edges. Butter and then evenly spread the avo smash onto the toast, before garnishing the smash with feta cheese and pomegranate.
How do you make sure all NOC locations are preparing the best brunch options?
We usually have a bit more free time on our hands after the lunch rush, so we make good use of the time to check how much produce and ingredients we have left in the kitchens. We contact suppliers to order any produce that is running low and ensure it’s delivered the next morning. If we are running low on any of the ingredients, we make sure to include them on the prep list for the next day.
Since we have less space in our kitchen at Gough Street, my team make some of the dressings and sauces at the Roastery and deliver them whenever supplies there are running low. Before we pack and ship out anything, I sample everything to make sure it tastes right and that there is consistency across different stores.
What coffee do you drink to wind down the day?
A refreshing glass of cold brew.