You’ve created a private kitchen that’s open in Hong Kong for one week a month, and the rest of the time you and the team are travelling looking for ideas and ingredients from the four corners of the globe? What's the inspiration behind One Star House Party other than becoming an air miles millionaire?
It’s all about people, places and ingredients. The more One Star House Party grows the smaller and more naive we feel as chefs. Constantly being exposed to different landscapes, cuisines and ingredients pushes us to understand more than just what tastes good. We understand people’s relationship with food, what it means to them and the way it makes us feel. Travelling across the world building restaurants and exploring is making us realise how little we know and how much we have to learn. It’s the best inspiration there is: curiosity!
Although the restaurant is based in Hong Kong your inspiration will come from pop-ups in cities around the world - where else are you cooking?
The whole team (Sharman, Kevin McCrae, Trisha McCrae and Joseph Lidgerwood) gets together once a month and each member makes their case for where they think OSHP should go next. We have already built pop-ups in NYC and San Francisco, (with a hell of a road trip in between.) Next up is Taiwan, Buenos Aeries and Seoul! We are currently arguing the merits of pop up restaurants in Iceland and Kyoto. It’s a democracy.
Tom Aikens attended your opening night (for your initial Hong Kong pop-up in January) but the creative menu speaks of your time at Noma. How do you describe One Star House Party’s culinary style and what's one dish from the next menu foodies should be clamouring for?
Our culinary style is flowing and charismatic, but it changes all the time. Each new city is a new board game with different pieces and rules to play with. We always spend a week or so not thinking about venues, furniture or presentation. We take time to learn and grow; the point of what we do is to put our guests in the moment we were in when we came up with the idea for each dish, whether it was traipsing through rice fields of Tainan, fishing in Patagonia, or enjoying a sunrise BBQ at the Grand Canyon. Imagine you had just been on a pivotal trip to somewhere amazing and you took so much time and care to build a beautiful photo album of your favourite moments. You want to show every guest that comes to your home so you can tell the story behind each picture. That is precisely what we do, just with food instead of photographs.
The old printing press space in Sheung Wan you're using as a distinctly residential feel - there's a bed in the middle of the upstairs dining room; was this the original venue you had in mind and how is it a reflection of what you're trying to achieve?
First thing I was trying to achieve was somewhere to sleep! Eventually it became another aspect of what we do. We started the pop-up trying to hide the fact it was doubling up as a home, however as the days went by we let the space evolve into more of an apartment and we noticed the guests follow suit. Everyone started to let go of what was expected of them and the team and guests just had a great time and got to know each other. With all the pretentiousness and bullshit vacuumed out, we were throwing more of a dinner party than opening a restaurant, Hence the term; One Star House Party.
To fulfill this ambitious new pop-up concept you’ll have to bring a lot of your ingredients back from your travels; what's been the biggest sourcing challenge you've faced?
This is where the logistics of the team truly come in to play; it’s an extremely complicated process. We comb through each menu planning how we can do this in Hong Kong. Obviously the first port of call is to work with friends and local suppliers to import any bulky stuff, and work out clever solutions to how we present each dish (a 6ft burning lemon tree from San Francisco for example.) Finally what we absolutely wouldn't be able to source we check in as luggage. It’s lots of carefully packed cases and smiling faces through customs.
We're sure you've had a chance to duck out for a bite or two since you arrived in Hong Kong - what do you think of the local dining scene and what do you think is missing?
Hong Kong is one of the only places with a diverse enough food scene for us to base ourselves in. Our guests need to have a pretty worldly view on cuisine to understand what we do, and to appreciate playful twists on Taiwanese street food dishes or Argentinian clay baking. When it comes to cities with fast growing food trends like Hong Kong, I believe the diners hold the control and the ability to drive progression in the industry. In my opinion Hong Kong is starting to go through a real shake up of its restaurants. The people eating here are getting a taste for sincere experiences; standalone restaurants where a few brave individuals put their whole worlds on the line and commit every waking thought to delivering each guest a fun, memorable delicious experience. For a long time, hospitality in Hong Kong has been ruled by a few dozen restaurant groups scrabbling for concepts or bringing copy paste restaurants from Europe. I think Hong Kong is ready for more of its own creations and we can’t wait to be a part of it.