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Alvin Leung: Pearls of Wisdom

By Stefan Chomka , 14-Sep-2012
Last updated on 14-Sep-2012 at 10:23 GMT

The chef-patron of two-Michelin-starred Bo Innovation in Hong Kong and self-styled ‘Demon Chef’ is launching a sibling restaurant, Bo London, in Mayfair later this year.

Bo Innovation means two things. Bo means treasure in Chinese and the cooking is also bold. I call it ‘X-treme Chinese cuisine’ because it is exciting, exotic and expensive.

Going out for dinner should be an experience, but it is important to serve a good meal first. You can’t have people thinking ‘that was an experience, and I might have had a meal as well’.

I can get three stars [at Bo Innovation]. It can be achieved, so I’m going for it.

Bo London will be a tribute to the city. I am taking lots of inspiration from British dishes, such as jellied eels, the English fry-up and steak and kidney pudding, but using Chinese ingredients. In the ’80s jellied eels were really passé but it’s time to make them fun.

Fusion has become a bad word because of its reputation. I’m not going to deny that what I’m doing is fusion. I’m taking the best parts of the East and West and putting them together to try and make something better. I don’t want my cooking to be labelled as fusion if it is seen as a bad word.

Bo London will have 60 (ish) covers and a bar area for 12, serving innovative dim sum. The décor won’t be stereotypically Chinese.

I did a degree in environmental science. Sustainability is very important. It’s always good practice not to be selfish.

Whether you like it or not, I belong here. I was born in London, I lived in Brixton, and went to university in London. I’m 100 per cent Chinese, born into the British culture.

Bo London has the same DNA as Bo Innovation but it’s a different child. I have the same expectation of that child, but this one’s a daughter.

I don’t reveal too much information about my restaurants before I open them. It’s like going to watch a horror or mystery movie – you don’t want to know the ending before you go.

The UK has a healthy Chinese food scene. It is now very cosmopolitan. With such diversity here, the food I am cooking has a chance.

I am someone who wants to be different.

I don’t expect Bo London to be any less than Bo Innovation. It would be disrespectful to my place of birth – an insult.

Losing a Michelin star is hard only if you don’t realise why you lost it. When I lost one I didn’t lose any sleep – I just sat down with my team and asked: ‘What the hell did we do wrong and how do we improve?’ It took two years to get it back.

If I want to play it safe, why come here and start messing with English food?

Chinese and European cooking is not so different. We both roast, steam and boil. The Chinese use a wok and the Europeans use a pan. The techniques are actually pretty similar.

I chose to open [restaurant number two] far away from Hong Kong. I was looking for a challenge. I hope I’ve made the right choice.

The thing about fusion food is that it fuses two cultures. You can’t take ingredients from different cuisines and just put them together – more often than not it’s not fusion, it’s repulsion.

I am self-taught, which means my cooking is pure personality.

Hong Kong is a very fast-paced place. People eat 14 courses in two hours. In London, people like to savour things – they sit together for three days and watch a bloody cricket game.

I am proud only to get recognition from someone who is credible. When you are given an award you feel achievement only if you respect it.

There will be no white tablecloths at Bo London – you get to see the legs of the women much better.

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