Breaking News: Chef Jowett Yu To Leave Ho Lee Fook, Restaurant Will Renovate
A seemingly perennial fixture at the entrance to Lower Elgin Street in Central, Ho Lee Fook is reporting some major changes this summer with news of chef Jowett Yu's upcoming departure in July. The restaurant will then close down for a complete renovation this summer, unveiling a new look later in the year at the hands of interior designer Sean Dix, while a new, as-yet-unannounced chef will take over the helm of the kitchen.
Opened in 2014, Ho Lee Fook has seen the fortunes of Soho, as well as those of its parent group Black Sheep Restaurants, change drastically. As one of the city's first Chinese restaurants to offer a contemporary take on Cantonese cuisine, Ho Lee Fook quickly became known for its shimmering wall of waving gold-plated cats, amicable service that has since become a defining feature of Black Sheep outlets, and its tongue-in-cheek wordplay.
Taiwanese-born chef Jowett Yu, who ran "funky" Asian eateries Ms. G's and Mr. Wong in Sydney, combined his French training with his Asian heritage to create signature dishes in the same vein as Momofuku's David Chang, such as grilled pork belly with Taiwanese caper salsa, an okonomiyaki and prawn toast crossover, and roast Wagyu short ribs with a soy glaze. Combined with its no-reservations policy, Ho Lee Fook established itself as one of the most in-demand restaurants across town, with a 90-minute wait for a table to be expected on any given night.
In addition to the leadership changes in the Ho Lee Fook kitchen, Black Sheep Restaurants also revealed renderings for the restaurant's new space. Sean Dix—who is responsible for a number of restaurant interiors across Hong Kong, including Yardbird and James Suckling Wine Central—has been commissioned to design the restaurant's new look, which marks a break from the dark, Chinatown-inspired interiors of its current incarnation in favour of a vibrant space reminiscent of Wong Kar-wai's In The Mood For Love.
"Chef Jow will be sorely missed; there are few people who have worked as long and hard as he has and become a mentor to so many within our world," says Black Sheep Restaurants founder Syed Asim Hussain. "His mastery of traditional Cantonese cooking techniques combined with his reckless abandon of 'the rules' has created pure culinary magic time and time again. But we are delighted for him and his family as they start their new beginning. As for Ho Lee Fook, this was the restaurant we dreamed up eight years ago and we are so proud of what we have achieved, but we have all grown up a little since then, so we know it is time for an evolution. We are so excited for this next chapter for Ho Lee Fook, we cannot wait to share what we have been working on."
As for Yu, he will be embarking on new ventures outside Hong Kong. “When I came to Hong Kong over seven years ago, it was hard to imagine how the restaurant would take off," he says in a statement. "But Ho Lee Fook allowed me to go to places I’ve never imagined going, cooking for local and international guests, famous celebrities and chefs that only existed in my wildest dreams. I’ve worked with some of the best and most talented people in the industry, but most importantly, I also met my wife and mother of my son in the restaurant."