Hong Kong Madame - English

Michelin Star Chefs of Hong Kong – Eric Raty, Chef de Cuisine at Arbor

February 12th 2020

by Aude Camus 
Remember that back in December, I was in Macau to attend the foodie event of the year: the launch of the Hong Kong and Macau 2020 Michelin Guide (right here to read our article and rediscover the full list of awardees)?a  On the menu: a few disappointed chefs but mostly a lot of happy faces ranging from regulars to newbies. Among the happy ones, Eric Raty Chef de Cuisine at Arbor. Not exactly a newbie, the chef was already there the year before to receive the first star of the restaurant (only a few months after opening) but definitely a happy Chef since he was here to receive this time not one but two stars. Two stars in less than two years, that’s definitely what I call roaring debuts! 
Which reminds me that my last visit to Arbor was back in June 2018 (was telling you all about it in this article). I’ll definitely have to be back to the restaurant soon. I was actually back just a few days ago but not for food (or food for the mind but not for the tummy) but instead a nice quick chat with the chef. 

Michelin Star Chefs of Hong Kong – Eric Raty, Chef de Cuisine at Arbor
Hi Eric! Thanks so much for making time for me right before a busy Saturday lunch! I’ve read before that you grew-up in Finland, in a small town. Can you share a bit more about your background? How did you end-up here in Hong Kong?
Indeed, I grew up in Finland. Only 1h far from Helsinki but where it’s already pretty much the countryside. In Finland, in secondary school, all students have to attend a household class where they teach you things such as laundry, basic cooking … I believe it was my first introduction to cooking. And I did like it and was good enough at it that my teacher would encourage me to apply for a culinary school in Helsinki. Which I did. I was 15 when I first entered the culinary school.
I started my career back in Finland. My first experience was as a dishwasher in a two Michelin Star restaurant Chez Dominique. I was so happy to get to work in this restaurant that I would have just taken any position. I’ve never worked in a restaurant before. I then made my way up to other positions including pastry chef. 

Michelin Star Chefs of Hong Kong – Eric Raty, Chef de Cuisine at Arbor
Back then, I thought that pastry was going to be my focus. 

What made you change direction and go for Chef de Cuisine instead? 
It’s just the way it happened. It was all about opportunities. I was in Germany, working as a pastry chef in a three Michelin Star restaurant and the chef at Chez Dominique offered me to come back to Finland and work for them as a chef. 

Did starting you career in a Michelin Star restaurant set up a path? Did it make you think you were made for Michelin Star restaurants and will only work in such restaurants?
Not really. Of course, starting in a Michelin Star restaurant, even as a dishwater, sets up pretty high standards and kind of put you in a direction. As a matter of fact, I then moved to Germany to work in another Michelin Star restaurant: Aqua at The Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg. But I never told myself “I will only work in Michelin Star restaurants”. 

And what made you move to Hong Kong? 
While working for the Michelin Star restaurant in Germany, I was lucky to travel to Hong Kong for some events, one with the Ritz-Carlton and one with the Hong Kong Jockey Club. This is also when I met my wife, who was then working as a pastry chef for the Ritz-Carlton. She then followed me to Finland but soon after I went back to Chez Dominique, they decided to turn the restaurant into a whole new concept, and it wasn’t for me anymore. I was at a time when I needed something else and I just thought Hong Kong could provide it to me. 

So, you moved here and started to work at Café Grey at Upper House, right? 
Yes. It was something totally new to me. The pace of life here in Hong Kong: 24h, 7days a week. But also moving from a small kitchen and a small team to an hotel kitchen with more than 30 chefs and 24h operations. I have worked in a hotel before but because Aqua was a three Michelin Star restaurant it had its own kitchen, so it was very different. At first it was not easy to go from small-scale restaurants to something like this but now I’m very grateful for this experience because even though I’m back to a smaller size restaurant, I know how helpful it is, on a daily basis, to have such an experience. 

In December 2018, only a few months after opening, Arbor received its first Michelin Star. Then, in December 2019, you received your second Michelin Star. Which of them was the most exciting one to receive?

Michelin Star Chefs of Hong Kong – Eric Raty, Chef de Cuisine at Arbor
Difficult to say. Maybe the first one. Because it seems like I do not yet realise we now have two stars. It feels like we need to work hard in the next few months to show the people “this is why we are two stars”. The first one seems more real to me. I also try and not overthink it. 

I’ve been to Arbor before but imagine I haven’t, what would you say is a must-try dish?

Michelin Star Chefs of Hong Kong – Eric Raty, Chef de Cuisine at Arbor
I would say maybe the Langoustine. We don’t always have it on the menu, it’s a seasonal dish but it was one of the first dish we introduced, and it is still one of the most popular. The only thing is I am never fully satisfied and feel like there are always some space to make the dish even better. I also think that being in charge makes me being more careful about some small, sometimes minor, details explaining why I’m never fully satisfied.  


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