We know all about restaurants and their chefs, but seldom about their lives outside of the kitchen. Most of the time we see chefs as the boss of their brigade, the leader of the pack of high-spirited chefs—but what about their lives off the clock? We sat down with four chefs in Hong Kong: Gregoire Michaud of Bread Elements, Yukio Takeda of Grand Hyatt Hong Kong’s Kaetsu, Ryan Zimmer of Cookieboy, and Matt Abergel of Yardbird and Ronin, each fathers who shared with us their thoughts on parenthood and more importantly, who is the real boss in the family.
Gregoire Michaud, Bread Elements
The former Four Seasons bread and pastry guru and founding partner of Bread Elements is a proud father of Clement, aged 10. Active on social media and a regular as our guest blogger on Hong Kong Tatler Dining, Gregoire has featured his son in all of his cookbooks.
How often do you spend time with Clement?
Gregoire Michaud: As much as I can. Before when I was working at the hotel I had crazy hours. But now with the company I can spend more time with Clement, with more flexible hours. We will go swimming in the summer, and sometimes we even play video games together. I’d say it’s a good way to bond with your kid, in moderation of course. We also bake together, breads, pastries, cakes, all that.
Is your world always surrounded with food, Clement?
Clement Michaud: Yes, and no. Every now and then we travel when dad goes abroad for tours or workshops, but bread is important in our family too. If it wasn’t for dad I wouldn’t know how cool blue cheese is, and how different mushrooms taste like, although I don’t really like shiitake mushrooms. They taste funny.
What makes a good father, Gregoire?
GM: Two words: Being There. Period. Fatherly presence is what kids need, not all day every day, but you need to be there when they need you whenever and wherever. Clements is at the age when he’s growing up but it is always good to guide him along. Work is important, but there is no greater responsibility to raising a child, with the life and values my dad passed on to me, and now, me to him.
Yukio Takeda, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
Yukio Takeda, executive chef at Kaetsu of Grand Hyatt, is not shy about posting selfies with his son, Koki. The Japanese chef and his five year-old are often seen hiking and engaging in the outdoors.
How much did your life change when you had Koki?
Yukio Takeda: A lot. Before it was all about me and my wife, but when Koki arrived, we factor him in as first priority: when we shop, or cook, or plan a vacation.
What is the most difficult part of parenting?
YT: I tried to be a different dad compared to the traditional Japanese authority father figure, who tends to handle discipline all the time, and rarely communicate with the kids. I want to be the one who handles the discipline but also facilitates communication, while allowing them to balance between school and play.
What are the favorite foods daddy make for you at home, Koki?
Koki Takeda: I like sushi, the small ones (maki rolls). I also like Japanese fried chicken, which I can have every day. I also like steak, and natto (fermented soy beans) with rice.
Ryan Zimmer, Cookieboy
Since leaving the hotel food and beverage scene, pastry chef Ryan Zimmer founded Cookieboy, an online cookie business, often featured at pop-up markets across town including Tong Chong Street Market. His two sons, seven-year-old Aidan and four-year-old Avi, are avid fans of his dad’s special and testing subjects of future products.
How do you handle two boys in the family?
Ryan Zimmer: Now that I have more time I get to see them more, I get to see the side I haven’t seen before: the boys are behaved most of the time, thanks to good lessons from my wife, Cherry. They do make petty fights over an iPad every once in a while but most of the time you see them sharing and hanging out. Even better in public, they are very disciplined.
How do you feel about having children early?
RZ: I think starting young is a good. You kickstart your travelling, establishing work at a younger age, and you get to see the kids grow, and help model their adolescence while still being able to see them graduate in college. You will also have the energy to spend time with them, both playing rugby with Aidan or baking with them together. When you are young, you will understand what the children want.
Matt Abergel, Yardbird and Ronin
Tell us about how you name your kids. There’s a story there, isn’t there?
Matt Abergel: Yes indeed. Lili’s first name is actually taken after my great-grandmother's name (Lily) and Lindsay's grandmother's name (Lilian). We named our son Ronin based on the Japanese word for ‘wanderer’ and ‘a love for travelling’. It certainly is something we wish for him to open his eyes out to the world, and of course we named the restaurant after him.
We know you work crazy hours with Yardbird and Ronin, Matt. How much time do you spend with the kids?
MA: A lot more than you think. We spend time with them over breakfast at 7am. Lili is the breakfast girl of our household. She’d make bacon, eggs, pancakes and all, and Ronin will be next to her, cracking eggs and helping out. There are no real hours for parenting. It’s a 24/7 kind of job, and it’s not any fun unless you’re in it.
What do you eat at home, kids?
Lili Abergel: We eat at Yardbird, but I love healthy stuff. My favourite is the green [tea] soba noodles in sweet soy sauce, with tofu. I also enjoy salad and quinoa together.
Ronin Abergel: I eat everything Dad makes. Noodles with sweet soy sauce are good！