Meet Taran Chadha, Co-Founder of Fat Chad’s, Pondi and Black Salt
Every evening for nearly two months now, Sai Ying Pun's Second Street has been jam-packed with people queuing outside Hong Kong’s buzziest takeaway––Fat Chad’s. This brand new, New York-inspired “bodega” sates Hongkongers’ deep-seated lust for a truly great sandwich, such as the classic Reuben (think corned beef, sauerkraut and smoked mozzarella on rye), combined with nods to owner and chef Taran Chadha’s other restaurants, including the tragically now-closed BlackSalt, with Poulet Tikka Masala, beetroot falafel and okra fries. Enlisting some of the city’s most exciting restaurateurs, including Camille Glass, Si Hyeong Kang and George Kwok, Chadha has certainly made his mark on one of Hong Kong’s most competitive food districts.
Born and bred in Hong Kong, mathematics major Chadha honed his skills under the wing of local chef Pascal Brent before going on to open acclaimed hotspots BlackSalt Kitchen, Brut! and Pondi. His new endeavour in Sai Ying Pun fuses flavours from his Indian heritage with modern classics to create a truly multicultural experience. No frills: just good food.
Here, he talks to Tatler about where the name Fat Chad’s came from, the most revolting thing he has ever eaten and what’s left to achieve for the Sai Ying Pun superstar.
What does Hong Kong mean to you?
Hong Kong is my home and it means a lot to me. Growing up here was a blessing. There is no other place I know with so many cross cultures.
What was your first ever culinary job?
My first restaurant job was as an unpaid dishwasher in a small bistro in Chicago. My first paid job was in Hong Kong at Fat Angelo’s in Soho, where I was a server. My first chef job was with Igor’s Group where I helped work on their Spanish concept, La Bodega.
Who are your culinary inspirations?
Charlie Trotter from The Kitchen Sessions, a TV show that inspired me and taught me a lot about technique and foundations of flavour. I just loved the way he explained things; obviously it was for the home cook.
Marco Pierre White: White Heat was one of the first books I bought in Hong Kong. It was the first time I saw recipes laid out differently to normal cookbooks. Every element of his dishes comprised so many different layers and components. When I finished reading it, I was inspired and ready to start my journey as a chef, a journey I learnt through a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
What was the inspiration behind Fat Chad’s?
This was my nickname at high school. There is a lot of nostalgia from my childhood memories and pastimes.
How has your heritage influenced your food?
So much! A lot of what I cook are things that I enjoyed growing up with. It’s a lot of my mum’s food. There is a bit of every culture in what I offer: everything reflects my Indian-Hong Kong heritage.
What’s your favourite family tradition?
Sunday family dinner where everyone can speak their mind as long as we don’t swear.
What restaurants do you like to eat at other than your own?
What was your favourite food growing up?
Dad’s famous crusty Portuguese roll with cool Russian egg salad, piping hot roasted char siu & caramelised onions. The only problem? It had to be ordered two days in advance. Those were chef dad’s rules.
Does food taste better from a fork or your hand?
Hands are preferable. Feeling your food can bring another sensory experience and can help enhance its flavour, texture and overall enjoyment.
What’s the grossest thing you ever ate?
After a long night of after hour drinking with the team, we all got hungry and my workmates decided to cook some “special” eggs. I did not realise at time, but it was Balut, a fertilised developing egg embryo that is boiled and eaten from the shell.
Do you believe in any strange kitchen superstitions?
If I ever give someone a knife as a gift, I always ask for a piece of metal in return: normally a coin.
What is one thing you’d like to achieve before you die?
I would love to be able to build my own farm and live on it with my wife and family. Basically, slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
If you could invite any three people (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be?
Robin Williams: he brought a lot of joy and laughter to my childhood.
My grandfathers: I didn’t really get to spend much time with them. I would love to gain their knowledge and experiences in life.
My wife: she has always been by my side through the good and bad.
You have to sing karaoke: what song do you pick and why?
Kiss from a Rose by Seal. My colleague and I used to sing along while it played in the kitchen during prep time. It was the only CD in the kitchen and we were too busy to make a playlist.
Do you collect anything?
A childhood collection of model RC cars, books and handy-man tools.
See also: Matchali Founder Cara Li Spills The Tea