Patrick Goubier, the French chef behind Chez Patrick restaurant, Chez Patrick Deli, and La Table de Patrick, tells us about his family-run business, how he met his wife and co-chef, and the one item that’s always on his menu no matter the time of year.
A little background
Chef Patrick Goubier and his wife, who is also a Vietnamese and French chef, moved to Hong Kong following a stint in Hanoi. They opened Chez Patrick Restaurant together in 2006 and have since transported Hongkongers into the laid-back, casual bistros of Paris with their subsequent ventures, including Chez Patrick Deli in Wan Chai and La Table de Patrick in Central.
Let us take a guess — you’re French! But which part of the country do you come from?
I come from a very small village near Lyon. I was raised on a big farm with my grandmother, but the farm doesn’t exist anymore. She used to make everything by herself, all the animals you can dream to have — chicken, dog, goat, pigeons, rabbit, pork, and a big garden. Every holiday I was there and it was where I learned to collect fresh ingredients and how to cook. It was very simple. It was very nice.
At what point did Hong Kong come into the equation?
I had two dreams in my life: I loved to cook and I loved to travel. Even if I wasn’t a chef, I still wanted to cook. I went to England to learn English, and it was easy to travel from there. I was working in many, many countries after that — in Europe, the Caribbean.
About 20 years ago, I accepted a job in Vietnam. I met my wife there and she’s still working with me here in Hong Kong. She was a Vietnamese chef, but now she’s a French chef! The restaurant where we worked was a beautiful place in the center of Hanoi. There are so many colonial buildings and a lot of preserved heritage. It’s very different than other cities in Asia.
When my wife got pregnant, we moved back to France for a few years so my family could get to know my wife and my son. We moved back to Asia later and I found a job in Hong Kong. I love this place. I just love this city.
And you’ve been pretty successful. How long ago did you open Chez Patrick?
This year is the 10th anniversary of the opening of our first restaurant [Chez Patrick]. But of course, when you’re successful in Hong Kong, your rent goes up. So it’s kind of a problem if you are successful.
What was the French dining scene like in Hong Kong when you first moved here?
Back when we moved here, there were only maybe four or five really good, authentic French restaurants including the ones in hotels. And about 12 years ago, I think Alain Ducasse came first. Followed by Robuchon, Four Seasons and more international hotels coming here. Since then, so many French chefs came and opened their own restaurants. Partly because in France, it’s a little bit difficult to evolve. But here it’s like a whole new city.
Is there one dish that’s always on your menu?
I always try to follow the seasons, but usually I am looking at the French seasons — not the Hong Kong seasons so much. I love to cook with truffle, so I try to make many, many recipes with it. It changes all the time. I guess the one thing that’s always on my menu, no matter what, is foie gras. I cook it all the time, in so many ways.
I love to work with foie gras is simply because I like it! But technically speaking, we can flavor foie gras with anything. Foie gras swallows everything. It goes well with some alcohol or some wine, but also smoked, with figs, chocolate, accompanied by lobster — the varieties are endless.
It’s also very much a dish that’s great by itself. The purists like it plain. But as a chef, you always like to transform things. You like to put flavor into a dish.