Hailing from Chongqing, Chilli Fagara’s Chef Chan Kai Ying has fired up Hong Kong’s dining scene with her delectable, innovative (and often, spicy) dishes.
Her cooking journey started at the age of 10 when she began cooking to feed her siblings. She recalls, “I was so little…I remember having to stand on a stool just to reach the kitchen!”
Chef Chan loves to inject innovation and creativity into her dishes while staying true to classical Sichuan cooking concepts such as ma (numbing), la (hot) and tang (neutral). In fact, her dedication to elevating Sichuan cuisine has attracted many loyal customers and even Michelin recommendations over the past 11 consecutive years.
In our latest edition of ‘8Shades Of‘, we spoke to the talented chef about how she integrates sustainability into her cooking and personal life.
1. In one sentence, tell us what you do!
I’m the culinary mind behind all the classic as well as creative, new Malatang dishes at Chilli Fagara, the Michelin-recommended Sichuan restaurant in Central, which I opened together with my daughter Tracy in 2005. Our mission is to bring the best of Sichuan cuisine and culture to the tables of Hong Kong.
2. Why are you an 8Shader?
I’m an 8Shader because sustainability is at the heart of our restaurant. Along with the growing demand for delivery and takeaway services, sustainable packaging is at the forefront of our ambitions. We are currently exploring different biodegradable takeaway packaging options as well as ways to reduce the amount of waste disposed of. This is how we aim to contribute to a more sustainable F&B industry.
3. Your best eco habit?
I always bring my own containers for takeaway and my own shopping bags when I go to the markets to prevent additional single-use plastics from entering landfills. We also reuse glass bottles at home and bring the glass bottles used in Chilli Fagara to recycle bins. I prefer using public transportation and enjoy walking to places.
4. And your guilty not-so-green habit?
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we were left with no choice but to use a high amount off pandemic-related supplies, most of which are not eco-friendly. I can’t wait until we no longer need to use these products again or have some more sustainable alternatives.
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5. Fave eco product?
My favourite eco-product is my thermos bottle, as I love drinking tea and hot water. It’s one of the best items in my everyday life, as I can save money and reduce the amount of plastic bottle waste at the same time. Thermos bottles are quite durable and easy to clean too!
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6. Fave veggie dish in Hong Kong?
My favourite veggie dish is our Tofu Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse – a delicate combination of some of my favourite ingredients.
I have a sweet tooth and love desserts – for me, no meal is complete without something sweet to round it all up, which is why we also offer a delectable array of Sichuan-style desserts at Chilli Fagara, such as our Chilli Chocolate Ice Cream, Bing Fen with Roselle or Strawberry Tanghulu.
7. What do you think will be the next sustainable food trend?
It’s difficult to predict the future, especially in such a fast-paced dining scene like Hong Kong. However, on a global scale, I believe that improved traceability is essential for a better, safer and more sustainable food supply chain.
Another trend that I’ve noticed are smart innovations for recycling food waste into upcycled materials, which can then be used to create new fashion, furniture or other products.
8. Finally, what shade of green are you?
I’d say I’m a coriander kind of green. This is because I love experimenting with flavourful, fresh ingredients and am very passionate about trying all kinds of new vegetarian and vegan food trends.
At the same time, I don’t exclude seafood or meat options, as they are inevitable in classic Sichuan cuisine. I do, however, try to ensure that all our ingredients are sourced and produced as sustainably as possible.
I consider myself a student of sustainability as I’m constantly working towards a greener F&B industry, by discovering different new ways to reduce our carbon footprint whilst catering to my guests’ culinary wishes.
Learn more about Chilli Fagara
NEXT: See all ‘8Shades Of‘ interviews
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