As an active supporter of United Nations Sustainability designed as a contemporary property that
Development Goals, The Hari Hong Kong has implemented a series of initiatives to further move towards green hospitality. We discusses the present and future of conscious eating with the hotel’s chefs Francesco Gava and Edwin Guzman.
Much more than a stylish destination and temple of savoir-faire and good taste, The Hari Hong Kong was designed as a contemporary property that champions efficiency and sustainable development.
A LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) – and BEEO (Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance) – certified hotel, It’s part of a growing group of local and international brands that are reshaping the hospitality world.
In the hotel’s acclaimed kitchens, chefs Francesco Gava of Lucciola and Edwin Guzman of Zoku are constantly evolving their menus and working with different organisations to make a difference. Here, they discuss their approach to sustainable cooking and the importance of choosing the right ingredients.
Chefs Francesco Gava and Edwin Guzman of The Hari on sustainability in the kitchen
How do you conceptualise dishes that can minimise waste?
Edwin Guzman: As a Japanese restaurant, we are trying to use as much as we can of each product. For example, when chicken arrives, we use 100 percent of it. Even with vegetables, we use every part of them for stocks and different preparations. This concept allows you to play around with different dishes a lot.
Francesco Gava: When we develop a new menu, I try to use the same ingredient in three different dishes. The same ingredient doesn’t necessarily mean the same part of the product. For example, if I’m using red prawns, I’ll use the tails for an appetiser and the head to do a bisque and sauce for pasta or risotto.
Seasonality is also a big part of this – buying products according to the season. It’s not always easy. If you want to run an authentic Italian or Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong, you need the right ingredients at the right time. You want to reduce waste and be as sustainable as possible but also strike a balance to use what you actually need to achieve the flavours diners expect to find.
Have you been trying to incorporate more local ingredients into your dishes?
EG: It’s a must to use local products – from Greater China. We try to use as many local vegetables as possible. There are some things, like celery for example, that taste exactly the same in China and in Japan, so there is no need to import it from [Japan]. The key is to taste everything and see where there actually is a difference in flavour and when it makes sense to buy ingredients from abroad. We need to buy eggplants from Japan because they’re so different, for instance. It takes a lot of time to explore ingredients and find a balance.
FG: Most basic vegetables for basic preparations, like stocks, come from Hong Kong and China. If you know the ingredients, it’s totally possible. We’re doing a minestrone with 16 different vegetables and not all of them are imported from Italy – it wouldn’t make sense. Chicken and pork are very popular here, so why not use local meats for some dishes? The most important thing is what the animals eat throughout their life (for health reasons, flavour and texture), not so much where they spend their life. That’s what makes the real difference and what we should be looking at.
In general, we should not be compromising on ingredients at all, regardless of where they come from. We should continue doing what we do, but make more conscious choices. What I mean is: offer more meat-free options and reduce consumption, both at home and at the restaurant. Learn to appreciate good things again and not over-consume.
EG: I agree. And the key to achieving this is education in schools. Start teaching kids from primary school about ingredients, food and sustainability.
How important is the traceability of each ingredient?
EG: Sourcing is everything. It’s not just about finding what you need but also making sure things are produced in the right way, both for the ultimate taste of the ingredients and from an ethical point of view.
Do you think it’s increasingly important for chefs to play an active role in promoting a more sustainable lifestyle?
FG: As a chef, your job should always be, no matter what, to control the provenance of the food you’re cooking and make sure it’s healthy and appropriately produced. The idea to use every part of an animal, for example, should be ingrained in you from the beginning of your career, to try and minimise waste. In Italy, this is an integral part of the culture. What’s changed, however, is that we need to be more open-minded. There are more and more plant-based products appearing on the market and I think we should be at least willing to try them and taste them.
EG: Yes, exactly. I think nowadays, diners are also challenging us chefs to be prepared to cook for anyone. For example, it’s not weird to have a table of five people all with different dietary requirements and this inevitably forces you to adapt and to keep your mind open.
Sourcing is everything. It’s not just about finding what you need but also making sure things are produced in the right wayEdwin Guzman
Do you have many vegetarian or vegan dishes on your menus?
FG: We’ve introduced ravioli del plin, a very traditional Piedmontese dish, made with impossible meat. I was surprised, but they’re great and taste very similar to the original version. We have a lot of vegetable-centric dishes as well that we keep adding new ones.
EG: We just launched a new brunch and one entire page of the menu is fully vegetarian. It’s not that common for a Japanese restaurant and people are very impressed by the amount of options. We’re using impossible meat as well, for example in a vegan version of the classic okonomiyaki, which is usually made with octopus.
Tell us about some of the latest sustainable initiatives and collaborations at The Hari.
FG: We’ve recently started a partnership with Nespresso and Eco-Greenergy to recycle coffee capsules and coffee grounds throughout the property and transform them into farm compost. Since day one, we’ve been working with ORCA, an innovative machine to process wastage. I was very surprised to see this machine in action – it made me confident that things can get better and there are ways to control our waste.
EG: We work with NORDAQ, the leading provider of sustainable and automated refilling solutions for bottled water. It’s a great way to eliminate single-use plastic and the transportation of glass bottles. NORDAQ water can be found throughout the hotel. We also work with Food Made Good
[a sustainability consultancy for the F&B industry]. They’ve given us so much knowledge on how to work in the best possible way and with the best suppliers.
FG: We’re now waiting for our classification from Food Made Good. It was great to receive proper guidelines and talk with different people and experts.
The Hari Hong Kong, 330 Lockhart Rd, Wan Chai; +852 2129 0388