British chef Tom Aikens has not only Michelin stars to his name—he was the youngest chef to be granted two Michelin stars in 1996—but also a number of restaurants in his home country and abroad that speak of both his success and commitment to the art of cooking. His most recent venture is the Pots, Pans, and Boards in Dubai, which opened in September to rave reviews, and today he is busy preparing for the opening of The Fat Pig, his second restaurant in Hong Kong after The Pawn, which opened last year in collaboration with Press Room Group. We talk to Aikens about the new restaurant and his fondness for Hong Kong.
What’s the idea behind The Fat Pig, and what can we look forward to from this establishment?
It’s a unique nose-to-tail, pork-themed restaurant. With a flagship opening in Times Square, Causeway Bay, the goal is to roll this out into other major cities in Asia. Pork is one of my favorite meats, so versatile and with the Chinese and Asians in general loving pork, I can’t see this not being successful. It’s a creative concept with the menu being categorized by cooking method encouraging diners to try something different and maybe even a bit more adventurous. Besides the food, it’s an open welcoming space, with lots of open areas encouraging interaction and social dining, which is why there are no starters or mains on the menu. It is all meant for sharing.
What different approach have you applied in opening The Fat Pig compared to your other restaurants?
It is definitely a lot more casual than any other establishment I have opened in both the UK and overseas. As mentioned, everything is on a sharing basis, so it was trying to come up with recipes that are suitable for this concept. This is also my first nose-to-tail concept, so the purchasing of ingredients is a different method of organization for me.
What challenges have you faced in opening this new restaurant? What are some of the highlights and most exciting parts of this journey?
Every restaurant opening has its highs and lows. It wouldn’t be an opening without a challenge. For The Fat Pig, finding the right pork was quite difficult. I support sustainable farming as much as possible and was very lucky to find a local pig farm (Wah Kee Farm) that uses no hormones and raises pure bred Bath pigs. However they’re not used to producing for restaurants in large quantities so it’s finding cuts elsewhere that matches the quality of theirs [that was challenging]. Also training the staff who are not necessarily used to working with the more adventurous parts of the pig can be challenging. It’s also an educational process for them.
What keeps you inspired in creating new dishes?
I never stop exploring. Every country I travel to, I take inspiration from, from the local food to the people and the trends.
Why Hong Kong?
I fell in love with the vibrancy of this city many years ago when I came out for an event. That’s a few years ago now, but I had always told myself that one day I will open here, and so I did when the right opportunity came knocking on my door. I opened The Pawn in collaboration with the Press Room Group just over a year ago now and with that going strong, I was hungry for the next challenge, hence The Fat Pig. I like that this city is so competitive, fast and just offers so much in terms of cuisines, ingredients, and competitive challenges. I feel if you succeed in Hong Kong, you can anywhere.
What’s your favorite thing about this city?
I love how it’s giving me the opportunity to really discover different methods of cooking, Chinese style as well as other Asian influences. I have started experimenting with many Asian ingredients myself, which you’ll find in The Pawn’s menu as well as at The Fat Pig.
What’s one common misconception people have about chefs?
There are none, they are all true. We are all ego driven nightmares. 😉
How has traveling shaped your cooking?
Again, it’s daring to experiment with things you might never come across with when sticking to the country you know best. I look at everything now, from ingredients to cooking methods; I even look at styling and plating.
What makes a good restaurant?
To put it quite simply, the food and service is what people come back for.
For more information, visit The Fat Pig.