World Chefs: The world on a plate from David Laris

Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:16am EST
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By Cathy Yang

HONG KONG (Reuters) - David Laris, who made a name for himself at the iconic Mezzo in London, is now bent on making his mark in Hong Kong by convincing the city's discerning diners that they can do fine cuisine without pretensions and a stiff upper lip.

The Australian-born Laris, who has opened restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai, is best known for LARIS at Three on the Bund, which has picked up top ratings in local food guides such as the Miele Guide.

Reuters spoke with Laris on how his ethnic influences shaped his cooking style, and why he thinks Hong Kong is fertile ground for nurturing his own culinary philosophy with his new restaurant, LARIS Contemporary Dining in Hong Kong.

Q: You've spent much of your childhood in Greece and took on a classic French apprenticeship in Sydney. How did these early influences shape your life as a chef?

A: I lived in a small village in Greece from the age of six till ten so it was an age when a boy is taking in a lot of the world around him in. It definitely gave me a love of adventure. I liken it to a Greek version of Huckleberry Finn, I joke to myself, running around the country village, and spending summers by the sea with my extended Greek family ... Being part of the olive harvest, fishing with my grandfather, uncle and father in the Mediterranean with our little boat, growing watermelons, seeing the tomatoes drying on the side of the road that would be later turned into tomato paste, seeing all the ladies in the family gather for full days of cooking, the killing of the lamb for Easter in the farmhouse courtyard, stomping grapes for wine, tenderizing giant octopus on the side of the road with a stick and water and whole days that seemed to be surrounded by eating, drinking and family are memories that will stay with me and become part of my life's story.

Perhaps with such strong imagery, taste and smell connecting me to these early years, it was destined that I would develop a long love affair with food and cooking. I believe everything we do and see in life somehow influences and shapes our perception of the world. Then stumbling into a French apprenticeship began to further shape and define all those influences into a solid approach to cooking.

Q: How did you come up with the concept of LARIS in Hong Kong, cuisine described as "modern dining with an Australian flair and global approach"?

A: It is an evolution of a lifetime of cooking and styling plates in fashion and approach that is my own. Many of the dishes are from the original Laris or new dishes I have been working on over the last year or so. What I constantly do is evaluate and evolve them to be relevant in today's approach to cooking or at least as I see it. This is a simple way of saying let's not box in or define what can and can't be used in the Laris kitchen. I like to keep my menu vibrant and fresh. I like to surprise and delight, have moments of playfulness while still being grounded in solid cooking techniques and I also like to use the most up to date approaches that are out there while continually creating new ideas.   Continued...

David Laris poses in his newly established restaurant Laris Contemporary Dining in Hong Kong December 13, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Perini/Laris Contemporary Dining/Handout