Interview: Richard Ekkebus of Amber Hong Kong

by: Angie Kwon
01 May 2017

Having been awarded the title of Best Restaurant in China at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and securing fourth place overall, as well as winning best dish at the Taste of Hong Kong festival, we figured it would be a good time to chat with Richard Ekkebus, the Culinary Director of two Michelin star restaurant Amber at the Landmark Oriental.

On Amber’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants titles
In 2015 we lost the China’s Best Restaurant title to Ultraviolet in Shanghai, having previously held it for five consecutive years. Winning back this title, as well as fourth place in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants is a testimony to the quality of the team, the restaurant and the guests that that have supported us. It’s still prominent – we are reaping the rewards of hard and consistent work, and we are never complacent.

On what makes Amber stand out
Amber is continuously innovative yet respects tradition, and the fact that we’ve done that consistently for the past ten years has cemented our reputation. Our goals are never award driven – they are the fruits of the hard and diligent work we apply.

On his background
I grew up in a restaurateur environment and was in a family business where everyone needed to chip in. I was always in the kitchen with my grandmother, helping with even the most hideous jobs like peeling shrimp – but I found jobs like this fun at the time.

It never crossed my mind to become a chef until I was a student and had a weekend job helping out in a kitchen as a porter and washing dishes. My career then began during a part time job followed by an apprenticeship in my native Holland under Michelin starred chefs Hans Snijders and Robert Kranenborg. I won the prestigious Golden Chef’s Hat for ‘Young Chef of the Year’, which encouraged me to further perfect my art under the tutelage of some of the greatest three-star chefs in France, including Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Passard and Guy Savoy. I later took up the Executive Chef position at the Royal Palm in Mauritius, then The Sandy Lane in Barbados. The Mandarin Oriental had approached me on several occasions, and I was soon attracted to Amber and pleased to come on board prior to the opening.

On at the Taste of Hong Kong Festival
I didn’t expect our duck a la royale to win best dish. It was amazing to win this award and a true boost to the team as it was extremely hard for us serving 7000 dishes in the cold and rain. The award gave us wings and the energy in our stand was amazing!

On signature dishes
I don’t decide what a signature dish will be – our guests show us through popularity what the signatures are. Each season we develop dishes with products we are passionate about and some take time to finalise, while others are created rather rapidly. We don’t know how popular it will be until it goes on the menu.

On his cooking philosophy
It is rather simple – exceptional ingredients, craftsmanship, French DNA and personality.

On his favorite comfort food
I love good French fries cooked in either kidney fat or olive oil as they give very different results. They’re the best thing on Earth with a nice homemade mayonnaise – I am Dutch after all.

On his favorite bars and restaurants in Hong Kong
I don’t go to bars a lot but I love a stiff drink occasionally. Any bar with a bartender who knows what they’re doing always hits the sweet spot. My favourite restaurants are The Chairman for Cantonese, Yardbird for yakitori and Neighborhood by David Lai for French food.