Pelago Interview: Vincent Mui of TEST KITCHEN

TEST KITCHEN hosts Chef Carlos Garcia Rodriguez 24th-26th March 2016 Get tickets HERE!

At TEST KITCHEN, we believe talented chefs with a passion to cook can come from anywhere. We are here to discover them and give chefs a platform to succeed in showcasing their talents, and give our diners a unique dining experience where our chefs can share their passion.

Tell us how this started for you (TEST KITCHEN).

It all started with the people who encouraged me to chase my dream including my wife and family, so I went for it. I quit my auditing job in Hong Kong and left for New York to attend culinary school and work in kitchens in the city. Towards the end of the year, I got connected with a young talented chef who’s about to travel around the country and do pop-up dinners. For weeks we traveled across the country, from city to city each week cooking for 100-200 diners a week, 6-7 courses with drink pairings. I loved it.

When I finally got back home to Hong Kong, I wanted to create a platform that brings in upcoming talented chefs around the world and within the city to come to here (in Hong Kong), cook the food they love and share their stories with our guests.

The chef (Kwame) whom I was working with became good friends and when I mentioned to him I’m starting TEST KITCHEN, he came over from New York and inaugurated our first pop-up dinner. We had no prep kitchen to use back then, yet with very limited resources I found a beautiful place in Hollywood Road, a tuck away restaurant with beautiful art pieces across the dining room, it was perfect. We hosted a one-night only 20-seater dinner, seven courses of all the ingredients we sourced from the markets and farms from the city. That’s how it all started.

How do you decide which chefs to bring to town?

Every chef we host the dinner with, no matter where they are, I pay a visit to them first. I want to get to know them, their passion on their food, their stories, and ultimately tasting their food. To me, talent is just part of the equation, their passion for food and character to create a dining experience is what attracts me the most.

I try my best to give them a platform to showcase their food, and share their stories with our diners in Hong Kong. When diners come eat, they see that, and they appreciate it. I'm lucky for the fact I've been able to find these chefs from all around the world, we started with Kwame whom I met in New York, his food took influences on his experiences around the world. We’ve also brought in a chef from Thailand who worked closely with David Thomson at Nahm Bangkok, a Filipino dream team head by Chef Jordy who's food is revolutionary and a great take on Filipino cuisine, as well as a Hong Kong chef who was expert at sourcing your ordinary Chinese ingredients and elevating it to another level.

I’m learning so much from working with all of them, and so does my team. TEST KITCHEN is growing and evolving fast as we enjoy the challenge to each pop-up dinner we do.

How does the process work?

We let the chefs decides what they want to cook, we do everything from sourcing the ingredients, designing the drink pairings, finding the right location for the dinner, assisting the chef with prepping the food, setting up the venue and bringing our guests to the dinner. We often invite food writers, media/bloggers, chefs and other food professionals to our pop-ups, connect them with the chef and help the chef to build a network here and give them the right exposure to the demographic here in Hong Kong. On the day of each event, we run the night as if we are running a restaurant with a special dinner event where each night is designed just for this chef and our guests. Every pop-up is with a different chef and location. It makes it a very challenging dinner to execute, but its exciting and fun, and its beautiful.

What happens with the feedback provided by the guests at the end of the evening?

I'm glad you asked that! Diner’s feedback is very important to us. After every dinner, we sit down with the team and review the comment cards, it allows us to improve and understand what our diners love, while our guest chefs get to improve and modify their food based on our dinner’s feedback. At TEST KITCHEN, we are always looking to improve and do better!

What’s next for TEST KITCHEN?

We will be hosting a pop-up dinner coming up on 24-26 March. We are bringing chef Carlos Garcia (a Spanish native) and his team to Hong Kong. His style of food is modern: influenced by his travels and cooking experience, yet still very much attached to his Spanish roots.

Carlos is excellent and a Chef of his quality are rarely available, so we lucky to be working with him. He started his culinary career in his native Spain at Restaurante de Vinis, a one-Michelin star restaurant in Madrid before moving to London and honing his skills alongside acclaimed chef Alexis Gauthier at two one-Michelin star restaurants, firstly Roussillon and subsequently Gauthier. As Head of menu development there, Carlos loved creating and developing new and innovative dishes for these award-winning London restaurants.

This is our most ambitious pop-up dinner we’ve done so far. We want to give our guests a pure pop-up dinner experience where we take them to a location where they would least expect to have a proper dinner in. The location is a warehouse loft style space in Sai Ying Pun, two stories tall, and we’ll be setting up our TEST KITCHEN from new where guests can get the front row seats to whole experience.

TEST KITCHEN hosts Chef Carlos Garcia Rodriguez 24th-26th March 2016 Get tickets HERE!