Culinary mastermind Alvin Leung, nicknamed the Demon Chef, recently returned to London from Hong Kong to promote Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival later this year. I was thrilled that he had returned so soon, and that there would be an opportunity for a hands on masterclass at L’atelier des Chefs.
Alvin Leung is quite a character (as I discovered at Identita!), in fact character does not do him justice. Born in the UK, raised in Toronto, Canada and starting his career as an engineer, he travelled the world trying the food in The Fat Duck and El Bulli among others, before embarking on his professional culinary career. Self taught, his restaurant Bo Innovation has gained two michelin stars. Quite an achievement, he is the only self taught chef, apart from Heston Blumenthal, to have attained this.
The last time I saw him he really got my culinary brain ticking. I was inspired to go explore and use the techniques and ingredients that he had used. What would he have in store for us today, I wondered?
We had two hours and Alvin demonstrated four dishes, then we got involved. Creating his interpretations of the English Breakfast, a Dead Garden, Xiao Long Bao and Pat Chun Vinegar with Tomatoes, Foie Gras and Ginger Parfait it was fantastically creative and inspiring. We also made some crazy sugar spheres which I smashed within minutes and not intentionally (I swear!).
These, as you can imagine, were complex and detailed, and I am sure you want to hear about them all, so I am not going to do them the injustice of squeezing them all into one post. I’ll start with the Dead Garden, and come back soon with the others.
The Dead Garden is a quirky Hong Kong interpretation of the garden dishes featured on many menus now and inspired by Rene Redzepi of Noma. Alvin stated that Hong Kong is full of dead gardens, and so he had to do this. My interest was piqued and I watched excitedly as he started with a layer of spring onion and coriander foam, then added soil made from pureed dried porcini, lemon, lime and flour, finishing with a layer of worms and a dead tree. The caterpillar fungus was sauteed and cooked with a little water until al dente forming the worms, the enoki mushrooms were sauteed and dehydrated overnight, then frazzled them in liquid nitrogen until frozen and crystalline. These formed the tree.
How brilliant is that?! And it tasted great too. The freshness of the green foam with the intense earthiness and umami hit of the porcini soil and the slippery mushroomy worms, finished with the brittle enoki tree. A great combination of textures and balance of flavours. I really must get to Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.
Come back soon for Part 2: Alvin’s interpretation of my favourite Xiao Long Bao.