> Chefs

Tong Chee Hwee

Tong Chee Hwee

Tong Chee Hwee’s cooking style can be defined as modern Chinese in as far as the chef seeks to reinvent the old with the new, taking ‘traditional dishes and authentic techniques’ and ‘adding [his own] imaginative twist to it with regards to both style and exquisite presentation.’ The chef draws inspiration from a variety of sources for the modern aspects of his cooking – ‘I’m inspired by all the restaurants I visit and cultures of countries which I travel to’ – while he cites both his beloved grandmother and his mentor chef Cheng as instrumental in his understanding of traditional Chinese flavours and techniques.

Following the success of Hakkasan Hanway Place a sister restaurant, Yauatcha, opened in Soho in 2004 under Tong Chee Hwee’s watchful eye. Specialising in dim sum, tea and patisserie, Yauatcha’s reasonably priced range of small plates and specialist teas made the restaurant as popular as its predecessor, and it was awarded a Michelin star of its own in 2005. In 2010 Tong Chee Hwee became executive head chef for the entire Hakkasan group, overseeing the opening of Hakkasan Mayfair that same year. Popular with local and international glitterati alike, the restaurant offers a ‘Supreme’ menu to cater for its premium clientele with Lobster noodles and Peking duck with Qiandao caviar among the most sought after dishes.

HKK opened in 2012, a fine dining restaurant in a prime Shoreditch location which stands distinct from the rest of the Hakkasan restaurants. While the Hakkasan menus encourage shared eating – the Braised dried whole abalone with morels and sea cucumber on offer at Hakkasan Mayfair serves ten, for example – those coming for dinner at HKK are given the choice of a standard or vegetarian 12 course tasting menu. Dishes are served sequentially with an optional wine and sake flight to go with it, and the style of cooking extends beyond the predominantly Cantonese influenced plates on offer at the other Hakkasan restaurants to incorporate traditional flavours from all over China.

In 2019, chef Tong decided to move on from Hakkasan to seek out the next chapter of his career. He has made a lasting impression on Chinese cuisine in London (and indeed around the world), and we're sure his next position will continue that legacy.

Three things you need to know

Tong loves the food markets of China but feels London has an excellent Chinese food scene. 'Most of the Chinatown shops are excellent,' he says. 'You can find such interesting produce and spices. I also really like shopping at Spitalfields Market, where there's lots of great Japanese, Chinese and Thai food.'

Tong's knives are his prized possessions – he believes they're the most important tool in any chef's armory.

Tong lists goji berries and Wagyu beef among his favourite foods, as well as Peking duck.