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‘I love where I live and work. There are old school cha chaan tengs and bakeries here alongside new eateries serving cuisines from everywhere. There’s harmony here that you don’t find in many places,’ says Tony Ferreira, Operations Director at Black Sheep Restaurants, as we chat about Starstreet Precinct. We’re at Artemis & Apollo, a charming Greek taverna tucked away on Moon Street, sharing a meal of Cypriot salad, succulent chicken and pork souvlakis, crudités with creamy tzatziki and hummus, and warm, soft pita bread.

Tony lives nearby, and tells me he prefers to live near where he works. Our meal is relaxed and unrushed and, as we chat about Tony’s typical day, it’s obvious that he’s one of those lucky people that just jumps out of bed each morning ready to start work — well, he also tells me that’s what happens every day. He understands the common view of chirpy morning people, but it’s really how he feels every morning — just excited to go to work.

Tony Ferreira, Operations Director at Black Sheep Restaurants, sits down for lunch with us at Greek taverna Artemis & Apollo

Tony has called Hong Kong his home for most of his life. Born here, he moved to Vancouver when he was eight years old but often spent summer holidays in Hong Kong visiting his grandparents and extended family. On one visit, he had an epiphany while strolling the bustling streets of Causeway Bay. ‘Something just hit me: “I need to be here”,’ he says. ‘The lights, the people, so many different kinds of restaurants — and it was just amazing how much there was to see. Hong Kong is like no other city. It’s just special.’

Back in Vancouver, Tony told his mother he was moving to Hong Kong, and a week later was on a plane heading back to be a part of the opening team at Zuma. He later met Christopher Mark, co-founder of Black Sheep Restaurants, and eventually joined the Black Sheep team.

Cypriot salad, chicken and pork souvlakis, crudités with dips and pita bread make for a delicious spread

Interestingly, one of the first things Tony tells me about himself is that he never thought he’d be a chef or work in restaurants — in fact, he’d originally aspired to be a criminologist. He was studying forensic science and working part-time at an iconic rib house in Canada as a dishwasher when, after a several months in the job, he was asked to cover for a salad chef who’d called in sick. Long story short, Tony discovered that he had a natural aptitude for cooking, and his boss offered to sponsor his culinary school studies. ‘Everything just made sense,’ he says about his segue from the forensic sciences to the culinary.

When we get around to sampling the Cypriot salad, Tony tells me he calls it a ‘tasty cereal’. I’m not normally a fan of cereal, but this salad of puffed crispy buckwheat, yogurt, fresh pomegranate and a few other touches is an explosion of textures and flavours — crunchy, tangy, savoury, sweet and creamy.

Plates at Artemis & Apollo are intended for sharing, which contrinutes to the intimate space's convivial atmosphere

Tony was previously chef at other Black Sheep venues including La Vache! (soon to open at Pacific Place), Carbone, Chôm Chôm and Burger Circus. Now heading up all of the group’s restaurants in Wan Chai, he’s a good person to fill me in on the neighbourhood.

‘The people here really take care of the shops, the alleys, the streets — just everything. People are very respectful of each other. It’s one of the coolest things about this neighbourhood. Everyone here is very respectful towards each other. It’s the perfect balance between shopping, dining and residential,’ he says.

Tony, who heads up the group's Wan Chai operations, enjoys the role and the company of his colleagues. He eats lunch family-style at a different restaurant every day

As we dip bits of our warm pita into the creamy hummus and tangy tzatziki, he mentions that one of his favourite workday activities is the family meal because ‘Wan Chai makes the best family meals’. Each day, he chooses one of the restaurants he oversees and enjoys a meal with the staff of whatever they’ve decided to make that day. Korean dishes, ribs and cornbread, curries — it could be anything. And when the man who loves work so much isn’t at work, he’s an avid reader whose current fascination is feng shui. Top tip? ‘Keep clutter to a minimum.’

While the pandemic has challenged and changed how businesses are run and how people interact with each other, for Tony and the Black Sheep team it has also given them opportunities to give back to the community. They worked with Feeding Hong Kong to prepare meals and deliver them to elderly residents in the New Territories, feeding others as they fed their souls. ‘It was amazing to see these elderly women and the strength that they showed. They were always so happy to see us,’ he says. ‘Being able to deliver food to them during a typhoon was one of my proudest moments.’