At the age of just 15, Michael Kwan started working in the kitchens of Hong Kong restaurants, before making his mark in the pastry teams of some of the UK’s esteemed Michelin-starred restaurants, including Hakkasan and The Fat Duck, and then taking the head pastry chef position at Duddells in London.
“I was drawn to the science and precision,” says Kwan of his choice to pursue pastry. “It is vital that you understand each ingredient and how they coincide in a recipe. That being said, the accuracy comes with a platform to be creative. Having the chance to be both an artist and a scientist intrigued me.”
Kwan has combined the two to great effect. He was awarded the title of UK Sugar Champion in 2019, and has been part of the team representing the UK at the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie in Lyon, France since 2019. The team placed fourth in 2021 and, having won the European Pastry Cup 2022, now qualify for the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie 2023.
This year, Kwan was also named executive pastry chef of The Dorchester, a bastion of hospitality in London that is home to such culinary institutions as Alain Ducasse and China Tang.
Although Kwan has spent more than a decade working in the UK, the early part of his career spent in Hong Kong and his strong roots in the city have always inspired his work and continue to do so today.
“Growing up in Hong Kong naturally influenced the flavours that I use in my work. My family are big tea drinkers, so I tend to go with delicate tea flavours. And Asian flavours such as black sesame, yuzu, orange blossom, and kumquat are very prominent in my flavour pairings. I try to reduce sugar and avoid having overly sweet or artificial dishes in order to allow the delicate flavours to shine. I would class my work as classic and elegant, using French skills and techniques.”
Kwan hasn’t visited his hometown of Hong Kong since 2020, but under ordinary circumstances he would return every year to catch up with family and friends. For his next visit, he already has a few places he plans to visit on the food front, from firm favourites to spots he's yet to savour.