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Food

Hanging with Mr Hong

As a teenager, Dan Hong was a bit of a rebel, emulating the ‘gansta’ life from his heroes in hip hop – doing graffiti, partying and earning the ire of the law. These days, he still has that sassy savoir faire air about him, but as the ‘it’ boy of the Sydney dining scene, a genuine Gen Y foodie trail blazer, he’s too important to ignore, but too cool to care.

His resume and achievements are as full as a contented diner at one of his restaurants. Stints at Longrain, Tetsuya’s, Bentley and Marque helped him score the Josephine Pignolet Best Young Chef Award at the 2008 SMH Good Food Guide Awards. Hospitality king Justin Hemmes recognised the potential. Seven years later, Dan is executive chef across three of Merivale Group’s hippest restaurants: Mr Wong, Ms G’s and El Loco. He admits though, that he would never have had any of this had it not been for his mother.

Mum knows best

Dan grew up in the north-western Sydney suburb of Epping while his mum, Angie, worked tirelessly at the family’s Vietnamese restaurants to give Dan and his sisters a private school education. But after he bombed out of high school, Dan admits he didn’t really know what to do. Fortunately, his mum did. She put him to work in her restaurant, got him into a cooking school and then used her contacts to get him an apprenticeship at Longrain. He’s never looked back.

“I never really thought about being in the industry when I was in high school because I took it for granted that my mum had this restaurant,” Dan says.
“I enjoyed cooking at home and I enjoyed watching cooking shows like Jamie Oliver, so I thought I would give it a crack.”

Dan found his true calling in the kitchens of mentors such as Martin Boetz, Brent Savage and Mark Best, learning Asian, fusion and French. But it was when he cooked the food of US trendsetting chef David Chang (Momofuku) at a special function that Dan’s creative juices truly flowed. In Chang, Dan discovered a guy who broke the rules and managed to tap into the main vein of food fashion – fresh, fast and great tasting – fine dining junk food. Hemmes wanted an Aussie version and entrusted Dan and chef Jowett Yu to do the job, and so Ms Gs was born. A Mexican eating excursion for Dan led to the opening of the pop-up style El Loco.

Mr Wong is Hemmes’ most expansive (and expensive) restaurant imagining yet, a Sydneysider’s vision of a hip Cantonese eatery located in the suits and briefcase end of Sydney’s CBD. It’s been wildly successful, scoring a host of awards including Best New Restaurant by SMH in 2014, and recently voted as the ninth best restaurant in the country by chefs and restaurateurs in the Australian Financial Review. The accolades confirm the inspired partnership of two great artists. “He (Justin) has this big vision and I just execute the food,” says Dan. “It’s great.”

Hong style

Whether it’s called refined dude food, or a super fly feast from a Kayne West of the kitchen, Dan hesitates at labelling his style. 

“I don’t want to put myself in this pigeon-hole where diners say, ‘I feel I can only go there on a special occasion’. I want people to come to my places and feel like they can eat there every day. They can also come there for that special occasion, but I just want to be the whole package where people feel comfortable eating my food, drinking good wine and having a great time.”

Click below for some of Dan's delicious recipes:
Chinese style sashimi scallops with with sugar syrup
Grilled king prawns with seaweed salsa verde
Carpaccio of wagyu beef with Thai flavours

Watch our interview with Dan Hong:

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Manu Feidel's Bastille Day Celebrations
French-born celebrity chef Manu Feildel celebrates Bastille Day in Australia with an indulgent French menu. Bastille Day is the most important date on the French calendar. July 14 celebrates the famous storming of the Bastille, a military stronghold, by restless Parisians in 1789, who feared France’s progression from a Feudal society to a constitution was being compromised. Although it was a relatively small battle, it had large repercussions and under a month later, Feudalism was abolished and a Declaration of Rights was proclaimed. In 1790, exactly one year after the storming of the Bastille, the Fête de la Fédération was held to celebrate the unity of the French nation. A mass was held and then Parisians partied, enjoying a huge feast with wine, fireworks and some even ran naked through the streets in a display of their freedom! Celebrations Today’s Bastille Day celebrations are more commemorative with the pomp and ceremony of a military parade down the Champs-Élysées, under the Arc de Triomphe and to the Place de la Concorde. For the French people, it is very much a holiday in the middle of summer, a chance to celebrate their nation, have some time with their family and of course, feast. “It’s a little bit like New Year’s Eve in Sydney”, says French-born, Sydney based celebrity chef Manu Feildel. “There is a party atmosphere, fireworks, street parties. It is in the middle of summer holidays, so families are often on their summer breaks, so they enjoy the day together. It is a great traditional public holiday and everyone is in a party mood!” Being in the middle of summer, Manu says there are no traditional dishes as there are at Christmas or Easter, but there would always be a special, often indulgent meal with family and friends. “People would buy the best meats and ingredients to create a luxury feast,” says Manu. “When I had my restaurants here in Australia, we would always organise a special meal for Bastille Day and the staff and I would dress up for the guests.” “In France, the dishes would be more summery salads and seafoods. Of course, over here it is winter, so I have created an indulgent meal fit for Bastille Day celebrations in Australia.” Manu’s Bastille Day recipes “Because Bastille Day here in Australia is in the middle of winter, I wanted to start the meal with a warm dish, comfort food, so I have gone with a chestnut soup,” says Manu. “In the old days, every meal would start with a pottage (soup), so this is very traditional, and fitting for the start of a Bastille Day feast. “The next dish is a very indulgent dish of tuna rostini with foie gras and truffle. Beef rostini is a very traditional French dish, but here I wanted to add an Australian twist, so I changed it to tuna. “The main is pan-roasted duck with celeriac puree and cherry and Pinot Noir sauce. In my mind, duck is always considered expensive, so this dish makes me think of a king eating, so it’s the perfect meat for a celebratory meal. “For the dessert, I did bring a little French history. Apparently Louis XV named this tiny pastry ‘Madeleine’ in 1755 in honour of his father-in-law’s pastry cook, Madeleine Paulmier. Louis’ wife introduced the Madeleines soon afterwards to the court in Versaillles and they became loved all over France. They are also the perfect petit four, for coffee and chocolate, to end the meal.” Manu Feildel's Bastille Day Celebration feast Chestnut soup with parsnip and parmesan crisps Tuna rostini with foie gras and truffle Pan roasted duck with celeriac puree and cherry & Pinot Noir sauce Madeleines with chocolate cherry sauce & candied orange praline
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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