Foodies in search of fine fare in Hong Kong would do well to reserve a table at Tate Dining Room & Bar in the heart of Sheung Wan. There, chef-proprietor Vicky Lau has mastered the art of entertaining, drawing on a formidable background in graphic design and taking many of her presentation cues from the work of surrealists like René Magritte. During Art Basel Hong Kong in March, Muse had a chance to chat with Chef Lau on making culinary waves in Asia’s capital of art and commerce.
You graduated from New York University with a degree in graphic communications. What led to your transition from design to food?
I have always been passionate about food, especially fine dining. Following my graduation from NYU, my friend and I decided to enroll at Le Cordon Bleu in Bangkok as we both enjoyed cooking as a hobby. I ended up completing the Grand Diplôme there and never looked back. I find the creative process for graphic design and creating dishes very similar, but aside from the visual stimulation, food also evokes the sense of taste and smell, which I find is an even more fulfilling medium of design.
You opened your first Hong Kong restaurant in 2012 and inaugurated your new space in 2016. How did you settle on the city?
Hong Kong is home to me. It’s where I grew up and, most importantly, where my family and friends are. I find it a place where old traditions fuse well with innovation, and that is very important to me and my cuisine.
You have built a reputation for your “edible stories.” What exactly are they?
For me, each dish is a story. It is inspired by the simplest things around us—the things we see, the sounds we hear, and the smells wafting through the air. We visualize and internalize to create each dish, tapping into those essences so that they appeal to each of the senses.
Your signature dessert, Ode to Bees, does just that, with its celebration of all things honey in a bento-box-inspired hive, complete with a buzzing bee soundtrack. Tell us more about that wonderful concept.
I was inspired to create a “bee story” upon my visit to a local bee farm while I was in search local ingredients in Hong Kong. I designed the multi-tiered hives myself and had them custom-made. On the first layer, there is beetroot pastille; on the second, a raspberry sponge cake and kumquat burst; and on the third layer, there is white chocolate honey crunch and banana caramel bonbon.
You are one of only a few female chefs of this caliber in Hong Kong, yes?
There are many heroic female chefs in Hong Kong and I am glad to see the diversity in the industry. At the moment, I believe I am the only one with a Michelin star, which we were awarded in 2013.