Let’s hear it for the soy! For this week’s edition of ‘8Shades Of’, we’re talking to Vicky Lau, chef-owner of the Michelin-starred Tate Dining Room – who recently expanded her empire with the opening of Mora, a restaurant dedicated to the joys of soy.
Named Asia’s Best Female Chef in 2015, Vicky has long been a champion of locally sourced ingredients and sustainable dining practices – so we took this opportunity to chat with her about why she loves soy, where she shops for eco products and why she believes chefs have a responsibility to protect nature.
1. In one sentence, tell us what you do?
2. Why are you an 8Shader?
Over the years, I’d become so absorbed by the daily battles of being a chef-restauranteur that I’d sometimes lost track of why I do what I do. The pandemic was the first time in a decade that I was forced to pause and think about how the world and my place in it will change. I became more aware that as chefs, we have a role in society to educate others about food.
The Earth’s soil is sick due to petrochemicals and additives. A high percentage of food produced is not consumed, yet there is a huge population that goes hungry. The oceans are polluted, temperatures have risen and industrial fishing has destroyed marine life. The way we source ingredients in Hong Kong especially is reliant on overseas imports. Tomatoes from ten years ago have a totally different taste to tomatoes now.
All this made me realise that we need to reconsider and change our ways – so why not learn together and share our experience through menus? Food is medicine, culture and tradition; to know food is to learn history, biology, its place on earth and the science behind how ingredients can be cooked and combined.
Every day I ask myself, “Are we doing good?”. I want to create dishes that I’m proud to serve the next generation, in both taste and thought – we have a responsibility to do so. With simple gestures, we can choose to play a part in saving nature.
3. What’s your best eco habit – and your guilty not-so green one?
My best eco habit is always respecting my ingredients – they’re my priority when considering what to cook. My not-so green one would be still using some ingredients from overseas.
4. Fave eco products?
Slowood – it’s a one-stop-shop that offers green alternatives for our daily needs. They stock bulk food, household and personal care product refills, organic vegetables and fruit without packaging, organic beauty and skincare products, slow fashion and sustainable lifestyle and homeware at affordable prices.
I like that they aren’t focused only on people who are already eco-conscious, but also want to invite those who are less eco-aware to join the zero-waste movement. They promote education and awareness to help start your sustainability journey step-by-step.
See also: Eco Retail Shops in Central, Hong Kong
5. Fave veggie dish in Hong Kong?
The tofu sheet stew at Seventh Son.
6. Why did you decide to focus on soy for Mora?
My exploration of soy began at Tate from our ‘Ode to Tofu’ lunch menu back in June 2020; I was able to forge relationships with some of Hong Kong’s most skilled local artisans and crafters of soy food products.
Soy is an ingredient considered a pillar of Asian cuisines and cultures. Not only does soy play an important role in Asian diets, but it’s also a driving force for heritage, tradition and mindfulness. Its fragility in cuisine can endure time and temperature, while also remaining fleeting and subtle. When paired with other ingredients, soy’s possibilities are as abundant as they are surprising. We try to push every boundary through creating a menu derived from all-soy products.
7. In what ways do you incorporate sustainability into your restaurants?
I believe that sustainability should now be a priority in the design and operations of restaurants. Our sustainable approach starts from ingredient sourcing in the kitchen and extends to everything we touch inside the restaurant itself – including our zero-waste e-menus and using eco-friendly cleaning products.
For ingredients, we make smart choices from sustainable farmers, as locally as possible, and minimise kitchen waste through our menu design and portion sizes. More importantly, it’s about how we teach guests to be aware of these sustainable choices – everyone has the responsibility to embrace sustainability as a way of life and business.
8. What shade of green are you and why?
Thyme green – sustainability is a long journey for everyone and there is still so much for me to work on! But we must keep sharing our journey and experiences, learning from and supporting each other. Sustainability is a team sport and requires everyone’s work.
NEXT: See all ‘8Shades Of‘ interviews
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