By Cathy Yang
Hong Kong (Reuters) - Ask where Chef Philippe Leveille comes from, and he'll declare that he's Italian, although his cuisine is unmistakably French.
That's because the 49-year-old native of Nantes, France, has lived in Italy for over 25 years, making a name for himself on the culinary scene by combining French cooking techniques with traditional Italian fare.
With his newly-opened restaurant in Hong Kong named L'Altro - "the Other" - Leveille, the two-starred Michelin chef at Miramonti L'altro in Brescia, Italy for more than a decade now. is discovering new ways to adapt and innovate his cuisine in an Asian setting.
Leveille spoke with Reuters about how Hong Kong is influencing his cooking in this, his first foray into Asia.
Q: How did you get started with cooking?
A: I started culinary school when I was 15. As my father used to be an oyster farmer, I was since a kid in touch with the world of restaurants and deeply fascinated by (those chefs) whom at that time were creating the haute French cuisine, first of all French Chef Paul Bocuse and Alain Senderens and the Troisgros family.
Q: What do you think of the Hong Kong culinary scene?
A: I believe Hong Kong's culinary scene is very interesting because it can embrace many different gastronomic realities, and at the same time, there's a lot of healthy competition with several great chefs that keep yourself growing and growing.
Q: Your restaurant L'Altro in Hong Kong offers traditional Italian gourmet fare with a French twist. How did you come up with that idea?
A: Very easy for me since I am a French (person) living already 25 years in Italy.
Q: How do you find the Hong Kong and Chinese clientele who have so far tried your cuisine at L'Altro?
A: I find the local clients very prepared and very curious about my cuisine, especially about discovering the different textures belonging to the Italian cuisine. The palate of the Chinese is more delicate compared to the European one, that´s the reason why I slowly reduced the concentration of the flavors and the saltiness of the dishes, using on the other hand more spices in the preparations.
Q: You're keen on experiencing different views of kitchen all over the world and using new products, cooking techniques and technologies. How is Hong Kong and the surrounding Asian region influencing your cooking?
A: Actually the biggest influence of Hong Kong in my cuisine is my discovery of new products, new vegetables, several kinds of soya sauce. Hong Kong made me also try to slightly "unburden" my cuisine, meaning using the fats in a moderate way, concentrating the flavors less than normal.
Q: What else would you like to try as a chef that you haven't done before?
A: I would love one day to have the possibility to prepare a "four hands dinner" (where two chefs are cooking together) with Chef Bocuse for my clients and colleagues. That would be a great honor.
Q: What are your two favorite dishes?
A: The dish of my heart since I´m a kid is cassoulet. The two dishes representing better my cuisine are the Miramonti Gelato and the One Side Grilled Pigeon with Brunoise of Chorizo and Squid.
ONE SIDE GRILLED PIGEON Pigeon - For one portion about 500 grams (1 lb) Garlic - 1.7 t (5 grams) Olive oil - 2.2 t (10 grams) Squid - 1.8 oz (50 grams) Chorizo - 1 oz(30 grams) Foie gras - 1 oz (30 grams Cream - 6 T (90 grams) Bisque - 2 t (10 grams)(already concentrated) Description: 1. Mix the garlic with the oil and lightly dress the previously boned pigeon meat. Grill on one side. 2. Cut in brunoise the squid and the chorizo, in proportions 3 to 1. Dress with oil, salt, and pepper. 3. Pan fry the foie gras, add to the cream previously reduced by one third. Add some of the reduced bisque, salt, and pepper and mix. Strain the sauce and pour on the pigeon.
(Editing by Elaine Lies)