Eating Healthy is not just a passing fad

Hong Kong has the potential to be a role model in food safety, says a renowned chef based in the city. Sourcing the best ingredients is key.

Cynthia Wan

Louis-Antoine Giroud who is hired to cook healthy food for patrons at IPC FoodLab does not have his mission confined to the fine dining establishment. His vision, no less ambiguous than the Government’s Policy Address is to push for Hong Kong to become a role model of food safety in the world.

Humbly located in the Fanling Industrial District, IPC FoodLab boasts gourmet European cuisines prepared in a slow-cook style with fresh, high-quality ingredients sourced from suppliers both in Hong Kong and from overseas. Plant-based sweetener, stevia instead of white sugar is used. Meat is carefully limited to the leaner selection of grass-fed poultry and cattle.

Championing the notion of farm-to-table, IPC’s top floor is a garden blooming with a range of crops, including calamansi, lemons, aromatic herbs, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, ginger and pumpkins to edible flowers. The restaurant’s menu evolves around produce harvested on the roof top. Resonating the Chinese philosophy of eating according to the season, a healthy diet is based on eating produce which are prime at the time, such as asparagus, green beans , tomato, salad for summer for the warm weather and potato, mushroom, zucchini for the cold weather, Giroud recommended.

“Eating healthy is not a passing fad or a concept but the way of the life for every one of us,” said Giroud who was inspired by his grand-mother to become a chef when he was seven and has worked at top-end restaurants in different European cities and Shanghai. “If a chef doesn’t believe it. He will go for a simpler way to buy the ready-made items like stock and jam.”

“Sourcing the best ingredients is the key. What is a good chef without good farmers?” A chef should learn how to buy from the farmers directly,” he said.

For items the establishment cannot grow on its roof-top, its expert team of trained cooks buys from around 20 local farmers in the vicinity for mainly vegetable and fruits, such as beetroot, potato, carrot, apple and pear. Grass-fed veal, quail and rabbit are imported from France, lamb from the United Kingdom or New Zealand, and turkey from USA to complement the menu.

The team also provides the farmers with updated technological assistance and the latest know-how to help them to grow better produce without using fertilizers and chemicals. What concerns Giroud is not the quality of their produce but the lack of support and that some of them are in their advanced age.

“The farmers receive no support and resources from the Government. They don’t have the basic technology support, such as a fax machine,” Giroud said. “One farmer that we are working with has a son in his 60s and 70s. But he is not offering any help to his father.”

“Hong Kong has the potential to be a role model in food safety for the world,” Giroud added. “It doesn’t mean that it can grow enough food to feed the world. But the high quality standards and strong rule of law the city represents and adheres to are conducive for food safety development.”

“We can ensure the food is safe for consumption by taking samples from the local farmers and have them tested by the certified laboratories,” Giroud said. “People now buy their food from supermarkets which have lost their freshness and taste during the transportation. How can people have real, nutritious food anymore?”

“I am on a mission to promote getting food directly from local farmers not the sake of myself but our next generation,” said Giroud, indicating that his three-years-old son is his motivation.

According to Giroud’s estimation, Hong Kong can grow enough vegetable and fruits for local consumption if the Government makes effort to preserve and promote the remaining cultivable land. “The current state of quality of the soil is acceptable but it’s under threat from urban development.”

During a recent visit by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his wife to IPC, Giroud seized the chance to present his vision to him. Leung replied to Giroud that the Government is trying hard as it can in this regard. “Well, he has other things on his mind,” Giroud said.

The Fanling outlet which is a 15-minutes car ride from border of mainland China is also a place to educate the public. When mainland tourists come to dine there with their suitcases, Giroud who worked at an upscale food stall in a Hong Kong supermarket chain in Shanghai takes time to talk and discuss with them about eating healthy.

IPC won the Best Restaurant 2014/2015 awarded by Go Green Monday, and Giroud is proud of it even though it is not a Michelin star. And the “likes” on IPC’s Facebook page speak volume.


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