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There’s a story behind every recipe. Here, The Style Sheet asks a handful of creators behind signature dishes to share the nostalgic, family-filled inspiration behind their top creations. From a Hokkaido scallop creation found at Nicholini’s in the Conrad to a toothfish and chickpea masterpiece at Petrus at the Island Shangri-La, we discover that even some of the most impressive fine dining dishes can come from humble beginnings…
Chef Riccardo Catarsi’s Scallop with Green Peas, Sea Asparagus, Colonnata Pork, Tapioca Chips and Milk Foam is on the menu at Nicholini’s, Conrad Hong Kong

Chef Riccardo Catarsi’s Scallop with Green Peas & Sea Asparagus — Nicholini’s

‘While scallop with green peas and sea asparagus isn’t a typical dish for Italian cuisine, it’s part of one of my fondest childhood memories. My hometown, Livorno, is a coastal port city in Tuscany where the food trade is omnipresent. My mother was a restaurateur and chef of a local, homey restaurant specialising in traditional Italian flavours, prepared in a Tuscan way. Every morning, I went to market with her to buy the freshest produce and seafood for our daily special of the restaurant, which was pan-fried Mediterranean scallops with green pea puree – it was my favourite dish, and also one of the signature dishes from the restaurant.

It’s this philosophy – fresh seafood dishes with in-season vegetables with very minimal dressing and sauce – that’s influenced my cooking style. For Nicholini’s, I drew inspiration from this dish but instead of using Mediterranean scallops, I elevate the taste by searing the meaty Hokkaido scallop. I also modernised the dish’s embellishment by using multiple textures and tastes including sea asparagus and oysters, which leaves a taste of ocean saltiness. The Colonnata pork ‘lardo’ oil and milk foam help to enhance the flavours of the scallops for a balanced palate.’

Bonnae Gokson’s Rainbow Club, on the menu at C’est La B Café

Bonnae Gokson’s Rainbow Club — C'est La B Café

‘When I think of the days growing up and spending many weekends with my family in either the Golf Club or Country Club, a favourite for me would be a good classic club sandwich. Today, wherever I am in the world, and whenever I can’t decide what to choose from a menu, I fall back on ordering one again, so by now I guess I can be the perfect critic for the dish.

To me, many eateries attempt to modernise or twist it too much: some are overly smothered with mayo and cheap meats and some use bread sliced too thickly. Since we’ve had such success with our Rainbow Connection Cake, I thought adding a Rainbow Club would be fantastic. It takes a lot of work for each layer, but it turned out to be one of our bestsellers. The rainbow-hued bread is all-natural, made from the goodness of vegetables like beetroot, saffron, spinach and bamboo charcoal. We then add premium ingredients like French ham, roasted chicken, avocado, omelette, bacon and fresh salads with our house-made mustard mayonnaise.’

Chef Devon Yap’s simple Coconut Curry Chicken, on the menu at HAWKR

Chef Devon Yap’s Coconut Curry Chicken — HAWKR

‘Simple coconut chicken curry definitely brings back fond memories of my childhood – it was a fixture at picnics and birthday parties, and during festivals. My mother used to make one using all the spices traditionally used in Malaysian-Chinese family cooking, but she also added used something not normally used – cumin – which meant, growing up, our family coconut chicken curry was always very unique. It was this recipe inspired by and passed on by my mum that I used to create HAWKR’s Coconut Curry Chicken.’

Chef Ricardo Chaneton’s Sustainable Toothfish, Chickpea Ragout, Calamari and Chorizo, on the menu at Petrus, Island Shangri-La

Chef Ricardo Chaneton’s Sustainable Toothfish with Chickpea Ragout — Petrus

‘My grandmother used to make a chickpea stew for our family lunch every Sunday, which was cooked with chorizo and strongly flavoured with bay leaves. This dish inspired the base for Petrus’ pan-seared sustainable toothfish. Instead of cooking with chorizo, and to give the dish an extra layer of texture, I use chorizo bits as a garnish for the chickpea ragout, which has been cooked in fish sauce with calamari, lemon juice, herbs and chorizo oil to complement the seafood aspect. I serve it in a deep plate to preserve all the juices from ragout, so the lemon juice and fish sauce can cut the fattiness of the fish.’