Cover Esdras Ochoa, the executive chef behind popular Hong Kong eatery 11 Westside, is set to open his new restaurant, 1st & Beaudry, later this month

LA all the way: Chef Esdras Ochoa brings the flavours of Los Angeles to Wong Chuk Hang

How did you first get into the restaurant industry?

I always liked to cook, and I had it in the back of my mind as a plan B. Everyone has this dream of having their own restaurant—not necessarily to get rich or anything, but because it’s cool. I originally studied fashion design and was working in the casino industry when the recession hit, but that was the perfect opportunity to go back to the drawing board and start selling tacos on the street. I didn’t have any permits or experience other than working at fast food joints like Papa John’s and McDonald’s, but it changed my life.

What is 1st & Beaudry, and what is its special significance to you?

1st & Beaudry is a hallowed corner in Downtown Los Angeles that changed my life forever. It’s where I first sold tacos all those years ago. I had nothing but hopes and dreams, but it was so exciting. You would look out on that corner and see Korean grandmas, gangsters, policemen, bankers, hipsters, families with children—all eating tacos. It was everything that makes Los Angeles beautiful: our diversity and our shared love of food.

How did this collaboration with the Arca come about? And what drew you to the Wong Chuk Hang area?

Like so many of our projects, it all started with a group of friends hanging out and just vibing. I was chilling with [founder of the Arca] Justin Ma and a casual conversation quickly became a real project. Wong Chuk Hang has everything I look for in terms of location and it reminded me of what Kennedy Town was five years ago: full of potential, exciting and up-and- coming. There are so many new developments in the area, and the marina is right there. Coming from Los Angeles, [the need] to have the ocean close by is in my DNA.

Which elements of Los Angeles are incorporated into the restaurant?

This is a Los Angeles restaurant through and through. There’s a certain cuisine that was born out of the melting pot of cultures that exists there. It’s the access to produce; a little bit of hipster and Hollywood; an obsession with staying healthy while indulging; too much sunshine and yoga; a vibrant nightlife; Instagram and TikTok; the lack of the Michelin guide in Los Angeles for about a decade; and [late food critic] Jonathan Gold using his platform to shape our knowledge of regional cuisines. This concept is what we think about when we go to [LA restaurants] Otium, Republique, Bestia, Bavel and Osteria Mozza.

How is your new menu health-conscious?
It is almost a meme that food from LA is health-conscious, and we can’t escape that. Our new menu is what I want to eat at home when I cook for myself, to bring balance to all the crazy meals we eat when we’re out. I absolutely love to experience uni, caviar and 18 courses when I eat out—who doesn’t? But the next day, a nice salad, good proteins and a jog to Victoria Park are necessary. I’m not 21 any more. So, what would that kind of restaurant be in Hong Kong? That’s what we’re exploring.

What do you hope your customers take away from this culinary experience?

We want to share our love and experiences, and give people delicious, nourishing food that they would want to eat every day. We want them to leave [feeling] better than when they came in. Everything after that is secondary.

Where does your love affair with Hong Kong stem from?

Oh my God, where do I start? Hong Kong was a magical place from the moment I stepped off the plane. It’s truly my favourite city in the world. Coming from Calexico, a small border town in California, I never imagined I would even visit Asia, and now here we are with a home in Hong Kong. The people here have been so supportive and there has only been love.

What’s next for you and the team?

We’re focused on making 1st & Beaudry the best it can be. After that I’ll be travelling back to Mexico to work with artist Adán Paredes to learn ceramics and handmake tableware for an exciting new venture. Then perhaps a project in the Caribbean so we can all take a vacation.

See also: The Best New Hong Kong Restaurant Openings to Look Forward To in 2022

 

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