As a well-travelled food enthusiast, Christopher began Ho La Ho Sik (Instagram: @holahosik) as an outlet to showcase the plethora of dishes from his journeys around the world. Since its inception, this modern-day food blog had only one mission in mind – to celebrate good quality ingredients. “The ethos of the of the blog stays the same whether it be travel or my own cooking, it’s just me sharing what I’m passionate about, which is food”
Today, this passion project has grown to have thousands of followers, who are all inspired by Christopher’s unique take on local cuisine through a Western lens, all the while keeping sustainability at its core.
HOME GROWN CHEF, HOME GROWN PRODUCE.
As a self-made chef, Christopher prides himself on sharing what he has learnt throughout his Ho La Ho Sik journey. Christopher mastered his craft by watching YouTube videos, learning from chefs based in the West. Since a lot of the ingredients used in those videos were not readily available in Hong Kong, he began playing ‘culinary scientist’. Indeed, he was experimenting with ingredients widely available in the crowded lanes of local wet markets, creating his signature trademark of melding Asian flavours with Western preparation techniques: “So that’s how I started adapting other people’s recipes into what’s more palatable for the Hong kong environment.” His passion for playing around with food always has him saying “never follow the given recipe”, as this opens up many avenues of incorporating different flavour profiles, using homegrown ingredients.
As your produce is shipped from across the world, it loses a lot of its taste and nutritional value. Not to mention the large carbon footprint it creates! Christopher always values sourcing locally as a means to bring sustainability into his food.
“ACTUALLY, IT’S THE QUALITY OF PRODUCE AND INGREDIENTS THAT GOT ME INTO COOKING IN THE FIRST PLACE RATHER THAN THE DISHES ITSELF. SO IT’S KIND OF GONE AROUND IN ONE BIG CIRCLE.”
As a sustainability enthusiast and a professional chef, he feels it is his duty to celebrate what grows around us. Through Ho La Ho Sik, he works with many local farms and suppliers to obtain the best quality, local & seasonal vegetables, fish and meat that can be found. Christopher is currently working on a menu inspired by the different provinces in China, making inspired interpretations of local dishes that celebrate the local ingredients and ensuring that they are sustainably sourced. “It was interpreting certain kinds of localized dishes as well, but not necessarily just from the dish themselves, but actually from the region there that they’re working with.”
Christopher understands that there are certain limitations to this, as not all the ingredients can be found in one place. However, that does not stop him from getting creative and making his dishes as sustainable as possible.
LIMITATIONS GIVE BIRTH TO CREATIVITY
Food waste is an increasing problem in Hong Kong, with 3,565 tonnes going to landfill. With two thirds of the food waste coming from commercial sectors, the move towards sustainability is inevitable. Even though he is a one man show, Christopher still believes that small steps can bring about larger change. Not only did Christopher learn a significant amount about food by working under the culinary giants, but he gained a deeper understanding of how kitchens implement sustainable practices: from tackling complex issues such as sustainable sourcing, to implementing new everyday habits to reduce food and packaging waste in the kitchen. By getting the best of both worlds, Christopher was able to bring his experiential knowledge into the commercial kitchen, while taking away very useful food sustainability tips in return.
The most important lesson he learnt from professional chefs is to correctly portion dishes to ensure minimal food waste. In a la carte and fine dining, the plating and portion of the dish plays a vital role in the customer’s experience. However, there is always more than meets the eye – the calculations and planning that go behind each dish showcase a chef’s talent, but for Christopher, there is an added benefit of minimising food waste. “You have to start thinking about how much of each component you have to make and make sure that you have enough, but not too much. It’s very important not to cook too much and always end up having food waste.”
With many restaurants needing to comply with food and safety standards, there is a limit to what a restaurant can do in terms of minimising their waste. Nevertheless, while working in a professional kitchen Christopher noticed how other chefs would reuse the vacuum packs: “Once they’re done with it, they pour it out, clean it, and they cut the top off it and then they reuse the packs again”. Even though this may not be a fully sustainable method, Christopher has implemented this trick into his routine as it allows them to reuse the pack multiple times, reducing the overall waste created.
Christopher agrees that there is a lot more flexibility when being a home cook. For instance, you can use materials such as beeswax cloths as food covers, whereas in commercial kitchens that may not be allowed or practical. When catering for private parties, Christopher tries to minimise his waste as much as possible by utilizing reusable utensils and boxes. “It does look a little childish when I bring a box of food that has these little cute Hello Kitty stickers from grade school… but at least that’s a small change that I’m trying to deal with and just taking one step at a time.”
Christopher’s passion has led him to work with many chefs and organisations in Hong Kong. His work with Food Made Good has highlighted his commitment to bring and strengthen sustainability in the culinary world by engaging and educating everyone through his platform.
Keep an eye out for creative menu items and future pop-ups events by Christopher, at @holahosik on Instagram!
This interview was conducted on May 10th 2021 when we were known as Food Made Good HK, prior to our rebranding to Future Green.