Food, Photography and Lifestyle Blog

Archive for August, 2009

Family and self Portraits….trials and errors

One of the things I am not too comfortable with (amongst many others) is lighting… I set out today and wanted to do some new things or try at least. least to say a self portrait is hard to do because you have to focus etc and do everything while you are behind the camera…its really a lill nightmare, what to focus on, is the light in the right direction, wait let me do a test shot…..sit down…stand up, review……imagine model sitting down etc.

anyhow a lot of my self ones were total off focus….great shots etc but so soft they were useless…..shame have to do that again! but 2 were ok, plus i ended up with some very cool pics of 2 of my 3 kids!


Aberdeen Seafood Market (Hong Kong)

Aberdeen Seafood Market (Hong Kong)

Officially you have to apply for a permit to shoot here and that will cost you HK$ 4500 for ½ a day… tourist and people friendly Hong Kong is you cant believe, just like around my home my children are not allowed to play ball, bike, fly kite, fish etc etc. Admittedly its a wholesale trade only market and I can imagine why they want to keep people of property, or you’d end up with everyone going there to try and buy direct etc.

Anyhow so I knew if I wanted to smuggle myself in I had to somewhat blend in, erh you may wonder how a fat bald white guy blends in to this market, not easy I tell you!

Most important thing, just dont use flash, so at 5 am with virtually no light, only the lightbulbs, you have to resort to high ISO.

Most guys were good sports here, just a few grumpy old farts who tried to shoo me away.

Its a colorful market, Asia’s fish and seafood is a lot more interesting to look at then say European fare, as its tropical and colorful.

Wikipedia has an article about Aberdeen here: but it toitally fails to even mention the Seafood market which I think is absurd

Hong Kong as maybe not everyone expects it

Hong Kong keeps amazing me, even after 15 years here! where ever you go how many turns you make thats how many sights you can expect.

A lovely building, a old lady working hard collecting papers, a building almost collapsing, a pink building, a blue one, someone cutting a blister or corn on his foot on the streets with a hobby knife, a barber shop for HK$ 25 hair cuts, yes HK$ 25 hair cuts, I should have tried and would have if I had any hair on my head!

Here i show you some random images from my stroll today:

Here the Museum of Medical Sciences, website (with some amazing old pictures) :

Museum of Medical Sciences

Museum of Medical Sciences

Museum of Medical Sciences

Museum of Medical Sciences

Museum of Medical Sciences

Museum of Medical Sciences

Museum of Medical Sciences

Museum of Medical Sciences

The Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, established in 1996, is an unique institution charting the historical development of medical sciences in Hong Kong. The Museum occupies 10,000 square feet, comprising 11 Exhibition Galleries, 1 Gallery for Tai Ping Shan View, 1 Library and 1 Lecture Room, each presents in a variety of ways to arouse interests and to help members of the community know more about health and diseases, including past conquests, current developments and future challenge of special relevance to Hong Kong. It also explores the interface between Chinese and Western medicine and encourage research in this area. It intends to serve both as an educational venue and to restore and conserve medical objects of historical value. As such, it is the first of its kind amongst medical museums in the world!


The Old Bacteriological institute, established in 1906, was the first purpose-built medical laboratory in Hong Kong, situated near to the site of Tai Ping Shan plague outbreak. Originally, there was the main building and two subsidiary blocks – one designed to accommodate the attendants, the other as an animal house containing stables. Over the years, the Institute played a significant role in the development of Hong Kong’s medical service. With time, its role changed as did its name, becoming the Pathological Institute. It continued to be used as a laboratory until the 1950’s. Ever since Government declared it a listed building, the Hong Kong College of Pathologists, knowing the building’s potential and the importance of public awareness of the history and development of medical science in this region, petitioned for its uses as a museum. The Hong Kong Government agreed, and the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences was founded.

The Building

The building is a British architectural design, drawing references from the Edwardian period, and representing Hong Kong architecture in the first decade of the century. It was transformed to suit tropical conditions, with expansive balconies and well-placed windows to encourage cross-ventilation. The use of Chinese roof tiles is probably due to the sensitivity to the local materials and deference to the local culture. It is interesting to imagine that in order to encourage the creativity of the exploring pathologists, the architect’s impulse allowed a folly of obelisks to sprout forth from the top of the building corners in stoic formation.

Another Gem on my way today, the Young mens Christian Association (we all know that means YMCA…erh….thank you darling!)  a beauty of a building in HK I would say but all I can find is Chinese language only website info about this…..but what a nice building it is, and that in concrete jungle!

YMCA Sheung Wan

YMCA Sheung Wan

YMCA Sheung Wan

YMCA Sheung Wan

YMCA Sheung Wan

YMCA Sheung Wan

Chinese Hungry Ghost festival

From wikipedia:

The Ghost Festival (simplified Chinese中元节traditional Chinese中元節pinyin: zhōngyuánjié, alternatively simplified Chinese鬼节traditional Chinese鬼節pinyin: guǐjié) is a traditional Chinese festival and holiday, which is celebrated by Chinese in many countries. In the Chinese calendar (a lunisolar calendar), the Ghost Festival is on the 15th night of the seventh lunar month.

In Chinese tradition, the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar is called Ghost Day and the seventh month in general is regarded as the Ghost Month (鬼月), in which ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm. During the Qingming Festival the living descendants pay homage to their ancestors and on Ghost Day, the deceased visit the living.

On the fifteenth day the three realms of HeavenHell and the realm of the living are open and both Taoists and Buddhists would perform rituals to transmute and absolve the sufferings of the deceased. Intrinsic to the Ghost Month is ancestor worship, where traditionally the filial piety of descendants extends to their ancestors even after their deaths. Activities during the month would include preparing ritualistic food offerings, burning incense, and burning joss paper, a papier-mache form of material items such as clothes, gold and other fine goods for the visiting spirits of the ancestors. Elaborate meals would be served with empty seats for each of the deceased in the family treating the deceased as if they are still living. Ancestor worship is what distinguishes Qingming Festival from Ghost Festival because the latter includes paying respects to all deceased, including the same and younger generations, while the former only includes older generations. Other festivities may include, buying and releasing miniature paper boats andlanterns on water, which signifies giving directions to the lost ghosts and spirits of the ancestors and other deities.

The Ghost Festival shares some similarities with the predominantly Mexican observance of El Día de los Muertos. Due to theme of ghosts and spirits, the festival is sometimes also known as the Chinese Halloween[citation needed], though many have debated the difference between the two.

In order to read more about this event, click here:

Lighting Incense

Lighting Incense

Bun Tower

Bun Tower

He ddint look happy

He ddint look happy



8th Estate Winery event with the HK Chefs Association

Or also a white balance nightmare! Last night we had our wine tasting event in Hong Kong’s only winery, The 8th Estate Winery Limited, I have to say the wines were great, better then what most expected of it. We had some great snacks sponsored by Gastro Primo Limited, and off course great company with so many industry professionals.

8th Estate Winery really does make their wines in Hong Kong, it imports for this the grapes flash frozen, to process them in Hong Kong for their wine production. As you can see from the images later, the winery is also very suitable for functions, wine tastings and the likes and the setting for Hong Kong is unique, a huge balcony  is attached of which I dont have any images but its sure a great place to hold a cocktail party with nice wrought Iron furniture, big candles and wine barrels as tables!


Gary Ling
Hong Kong

It’s got no vineyards of its own, but a new winery hopes its ‘Made In Hong Kong’ label will make a mark on the growing Asian wine market.
The 8th Estate Winery has produced Hong Kong’s first wine, using grapes that are shipped frozen from other countries. The thawing, fermentation, aging and blending of the grapes takes place at the winery housed in a high-rise warehouse, which has just released its first batch of reds, whites and ice wines.
“There is an initial novelty value, a little bit of a shock seeing a bottle which says ‘Product of Hong Kong’ because there has never been a wine bottle that has said that before,” winery director Lysanne Tusar said. “We always label where our grapes came from and we are quite proud to say where the varieties are sourced,” she added.
The winery’s whites range from Sauvignon Blancs to Chardonnays. The reds include Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons. Tusar said all their grapes for 2007 came from Washington state in the United States. For 2008, the grapes were from Italy. The 8th Estate has so far produced 100,000 bottles, of which 60,000 have been sold. The rest are being aged.
Since the wines are only distributed to local restaurants and hotels, the winery uses no sulfates or preservatives, which Tusar says gives the wine a distinctive flavor. Some fans agree. “I think it’s quite good. Maybe the texture of red wines from France would be more complicated,” Charmane Lee, who attended a recent tasting of The 8th Estate wines.
Wine consumption in China, and many countries in Asia not traditionally associated with drinking it, is growing fast, driven by the growing ranks of affluent, young and often Westernised professionals.
The winery says it has tweaked its wines in order to match the Chinese palate and compliment Chinese cuisine.
Last year, Hong Kong scrapped taxes on wines in a bid to position itself as Asia’s wine hub. Wine imports have since grown 83 per cent year on year to HK$3 billion ($387.1 million), the city has signed wine pacts with countries including Spain and Hungary, and a slew of rare and fine wine auctions have been held. While wine auctions by international houses such as Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams this year haven’t matched pre-crisis levels, recent results have been surprisingly robust. Two Hong Kong sales this year by leading U.S. wine merchant Acker Merrall & Condit uncorked $9.3 million in sales. Tusar said Hong Kong’s ambitions, part of the city’s efforts to maintain its economy, were among the reasons The 8th Estate set up shop there in 2007. “It was obvious that Hong Kong was positioning itself to be a global leader in the wine market,” she said. “The government is behind the wine industry. It’s relatively easy to set up business here, the demographic and the population here love wine. It’s becoming a daily beverage.”
The wine industry estimates that total spending on table wine in Asian economies, excluding Japan, is around $7 billion, which accounts for about 7 percent of the global market. The forecast for growth in Asia is 10-20 percent a year in the next five years, with China, Singapore, Korea and Taiwan leading the way. —Reuters

An initiative that teaches underprivileged children culinary skills is hoping to instil lifelong healthy eating habits

Last week I had the privilige to shoot a session with Richard Ekkebus and Sam Mason at LMO Hotel, well the next day he asked me if I could come back again as he had a bunch of kids coming in through cooking for life, as I remembered this organization I said yes right away! Below an introduction of what Cooking for Life is and a link to their website. If you want to be a part of this, please contact Philippe Bru!

Chefs Wanted to support: Cooking For Life

The goal of CFL is to better the life of underprivileged children through education in cookery. I was introduced to this great initiative by my good friend & colleague: Jaako of Finds, who had been actively, supported this for a while. He had send a mail to all chefs in HK & asked them kindly to participate, the sad thing was that only one kitchen team from that mail got involved: The Landmark Mandarin Oriental!!

I was in particularly touched by this mission & collectively with the Landmark mandarin oriental we decided to make a difference for some under privileged children in order to teach them how to cook a well balanced & nutritional meal. In the months of June, July & August; Amber had organized cooking lessons for groups of 15 underprivileged children aged 10 to 18

Over this period of time my team has become very passionate & proud about this cause. It has proven to be a great way to showcase this amazing profession to youngsters out of the tougher unprivileged HK neighbourhood’s. To kids who will decide their career path soon!!! The course is health conscience driven, we talk about nutrition: healthy foods in a simple manner. Obesity is also in Hong Kong considerably on the rise! If one TV chef named Jamie Oliver can make a difference in the UK: improving food standards served at school canteens what about a collective step by HK Chefs in one of the most exciting food cities in the world: Hong Kong…………..

Through this writing & through the images by Marco Veringa I hope to convince more chefs to make the step to become actively involved in CFL & yes we are all busy & yes this cost money & time. But lets be fair; how much time ones a month 2 hours, the  money: we talking about to let 15 kids make a vegetable soup a cereal bar a nutritious salad?? If that would cost HK$1000. it would have been much. We are talking about peanuts here. All Chefs in HK should take a collective step to contribute!! Not only to make the headlines but to be good citizens to be part of the future of HK & why not sparkle some, wanting to become tomorrow’s finest HK chefs…..

Richard Ekkbus

Hotels & restaurants currently involved supporting this great cause:

Holiday Inn Golden Mile

Marco Polo Hong Kong

Marco Polo Prince

Marco Polo Gateway

Landmark Mandarin Oriental “Amber” Restaurant


Morton’s of Chicago

Dakota Prime

H One


Club Gourmet

Are you interested to make a difference???? Please go to their website for more information,

Philippe Bru is also attempting to help less fortunate children. Two years ago, he founded Cooking for Life, which aims to teach underprivileged children cooking techniques at world-class restaurants. “This idea started out to promote personal health and healthy eating habits,” says Bru, a wine dealer.

“We had Football for Life to foster team spirit while encouraging physical activity, but often it was only the boys who joined. I asked the charities I was working with what girls were interested in and, overwhelmingly, they said cooking.

“The concept is pretty simple. Hotels and restaurants host 15 children every Saturday from 3pm to 5pm. The kitchen determines the theme of each session and teaches the children basic dishes to cook,” says Bru.

In the first year, 1,500 children from 10 charities were hosted in 15 top hotels and five restaurants.

“The children may be underprivileged, but they are eager to learn, well behaved and very hands on,” says Bru. “We take the children out of their own districts and bring them to top restaurants they would normally not have the opportunity to explore.

Martin Yan, from Yan Can Cook, is our ambassador and, together, we are launching this funding campaign to create a community cooking centre. There is a lack of knowledge about cooking and the current state of Hong Kong’s salty and greasy diet is a health issue.

“Instead of moving from hotel to restaurant, Cooking for Life will have a home base with the ability to provide services not only to underprivileged children, but also adults and families. This would allow the corporate world and  major chefs to participate and get on cable television.”

The success of this campaign can be attributed to the passion Bru inspires in his volunteers.

“They [volunteers] are amazing,” he says. “I have received about 300 e-mails from volunteers from different parts of the world. Many give their time to chase restaurants to donate their facilities. We are here to remind the industry that although there is a financial crisis, these kids deserve better. It’s our job to convince each person in the industry that they can help.”

“What we do is about being disciplined, it’s about working together and it’s about life in general. We help children come out of their district to cook food, but if they are keen to work in the industry then we can help them as well. A lot of hotels are eager to hire and exposure through Cooking for Life can help them.

“In this fast-food world, if you can show children healthy cooking and get them to know how much it costs to buy vegetables, to wash them properly and cook them well, it would be great. If one or two become chefs, then our job is done.

Jamming with Sam Mason

Richard Ekkebus and his team of Chefs at the Mandarin Oriental’s Restaurant Amber, a 2 Michelin Star establishment of outstanding standards. Richard invited me to come and do a Photo-shoot “in the heat of the night”. I can tell you thats a big challenge, no one can stop for 5 seconds as orders need to be fired, so there is no being nice to the photographer. Lucky I know the workings of a professional kitchen well enough so I know a bit where to be at what times.

So I ended up with a neat set of action shots where all the Chefs were really great sports, plus some studio shots of the individual dishes.

If you havent given yourself the Gourmet treatment lately, you should come here once and try his amazing food. I was also lucky to meet there Guest Pastry Chef Sam Mason, a little more about him can be read on this blog here:

I will let the pictures and Richard Ekkebus speak for them-self now.

Jamming with Sam Mason in Amber By Richard Ekkebus

There is something about cooking, something in kitchens that I only found when playing Rugby when I was younger: a form camaraderie, the willingness to achieve something in a team, to exchange knowledge, passion in order to evolve & to become a better team player & technician. I for that reason love to invite talented chefs, some former colleagues, Former chefs of mine & other friends I know or some I do not know but admire. We have had many talented chefs in Amber over the past few years of existence: Nicolas Lebec, Robert Kranenborg, Hans Snijders, Gilles Marchal, Jean Francois Piege, Jonnie Boer, Thierry Marx, Didier Elena, Christian Le Squer just to name a few & last week Sam Mason. All these great chefs came to Amber & shared their techniques unconditionally. Who said chefs have secrets, in my opinion there is nothing as inspiring as sharing your views, your concepts & your  ideas with your counterparts, it will push you even further & make you dig even deeper to do it better & different that anyone else. It is an amazing opportunity for my team to see that I am not the only nut case pushing to become better tomorrow than we where today….

I have been a fan over the past 5 years of wd~50 in NYC for many years, a fan of their boundless creativity. Wd~50 opened at 50 Clinton Street, between Rivington and Stanton, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in NYC. The dream team for many years of their young existence was Wylie Dufresne Chef Owner,  Eben Freeman behind the bar as the gifted Mixologist & Sam Mason in Pastry

We have been working over the past year extensively with Eben, he has been involved with great events in our MO bar & Amber Restaurant, always driven by booze, great booze. Eben has been elementary to evolve & perfect the technique of our Amber & MOBar Mixologist team.

Sam is today considered one of the most creative chefs working in America. As the former pastry chef at  wd-50, Sam Mason made a name for himself creating unlikely dishes such as cocoa caviar and miso ice cream. When he decided to open his own restaurant, the tattooed 33-year-old did so in unusually brash fashion, detailing the stops and starts of the process (Construction delay! Liquor license application red tape!) By the time it opened in SoHo in September 2007, Tailor was one of the most hyped restaurants to hit New York that year. Its savory and sweet dishes like chocolate-miso-glazed cod, sesame ice cream paired with ancho chile caramel and peanut “soil,” and Bazooka bubblegum–flavored cocktails sparked polarizing reactions. Food sites like Eater and Mouthfuls attracted comments ranging from “Sam Mason is my f…… hero” to “What is this Fear Factor?” Sam & Eben became both even more intriguing & clear the boys where ready to push the envelope even further.

During our highly successful All Star Mixologist Diner in Amber in June where Eben along with Jim Meehan & Linden Pride created Cocktails along with a 8 course menu by myself, the idea came up to bring Sam Mason in Hong Kong to do a one off exclusive diner event in Amber. Sam & Eben had closed the shop in August: so August was the month to go for.

For this event we prepared an exciting eight-course tasting menu. In order to make the event more challenging for us and more exciting for our guests, we took a novel approach: half of the menu will be cooked by Amber’s culinary team, the other half by Sam. Amber’s team cooked four savoury dishes with fruits while Sam prepared four desserts with vegetables.

After having created quite a storm with our previous Mixologist Cocktail Pairing Dinner, and due to popular demand we brought back Eben Freeman too. Eben created two special cocktails during the event and wines for the evening where carefully selected and paired by Patrick Frawley, our sommelier. I had send personalized emails to our regular foodie following & the event was full in 2 hours, obliging us to spill over in the dining room. The event was well received & the cocktail making at the table by Eben was highly entertaining. I have attached the menu along with brilliant pictures by Marco Veringa that will tell you the culinary journey of the evening.

Menu Attached


Sam Mason, is one of the most creative chefs working in America today.

Having honed his craft at some of the most prestigious kitchens in the country including Palladin, Union Pacific, Atlas, Park Avenue Café and most notably as the pastry chef at the renowned WD-50, Mason is known for his amazing culinary vision and gift in combining unusual and innovative ingredients that surprise, delight and challenge the palate.

A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Mason was educated at Johnson & Wales University.

Eben Freeman, a native New Yorker, has worked in NYC’s food and beverage industry for two decades. During this time he has worked with the likes of Pino Luongo, Jean-Louis Palladin, Jimmy Bradley, Kurt Gutenbrunner, and Danny Meyer.

In 2002, Freeman joined chefs Wylie Dufresne and Sam Mason at wd-50 and it was there that Freeman’s “chef-driven” style of bartending was fully realized. He has been invited to participate in numerous esteemed seminars such as Bols Liqueurs’ molecular mixology seminar in Paris with noted molecular gastronomist, Herve This. Ever since, Freeman has been pushing the boundaries of the cocktail and has endeavored to challenge perceptions with his innovative and unexpected approach. He continues to be commissioned by liquor brands, such as Bacardi, to develop flavors and create signature cocktails.

Currently, Freeman works with chef Sam Mason at Tailor where he has created one of the most celebrated cocktail programs in the city. He makes his home with his wife and two children in Harlem, New York City.

We have this very exciting dinner event this Saturday and I am certain that a fine gourmet like yourself would find this an excellent opportunity to discover the talents of our guest chef Sam Mason from tailors in NYC & according to forbes magazine the best mixologist in NYY; Eben Freeman.

More information on Sam Mason at: