Jowett Yu' s childhood in Taiwan planted the seed for a career in food. Kylie Knott talks to the chef about his first venture in the city
It's not surprising that Jowett Yu wants to meet at a traditional cha chaan teng - its unpretentious surroundings fit perfectly with his down-to-earth nature. Settling on a stool, the chef looks relaxed in jeans and a T-shirt as he orders a bowl of noodles with vegetables. "I love this really honest food and decor," he says.
It's a philosophy Yu will follow when he opens his first restaurant in Hong Kong later this month. Going by the cheeky name Ho Lee Fook (meaning "good fortune for your mouth"), the restaurant on SoHo's Elgin Street will serve Chinese food but the dishes will be modern interpretations of the cuisine on which he was raised.
As for the decor, the restaurant will have modern touches. Yu says it will be "informal but fun". Collaborating with him on the design front is Douglas Young, G.O.D founder.
"I've always been interested in the work of G.O.D and what they do. They have a good eye for design, reinventing iconic Hong Kong images and giving old Hong Kong a modern and humorous twist. Douglas and I have been talking about the restaurant and how will it look. He really helped get the ball rolling. He even came up with the idea to call the restaurant Ho Lee Fook. I thought, 'Oh …that's catchy and fun'."
As for the future, Yu says he has no plans yet on expanding in the city or in the region.
"There's really high expectations in the industry, so I'm taking baby steps," he says. "Right now, I just want to get the restaurant up and running and deliver quality food. And I want to have a lot of fun doing it."