Where do the notable chefs and bartenders of Hong Kong’s F&B scene like to eat when they’re not cooking? What is their best home-cooked meal? Cheat Day goes behind the scenes with the city’s culinarians and tastemakers to find out exactly what their personal favourites are during their days off.
As the group pastry chef of Black Sheep Restaurants, Karys Logue is busy. Very, extremely busy.
She spends most of her days surrounded by cakes, sweets and pastries (a dream!), checking and collaborating with respective chefs on dessert menus at various Black Sheep outlets — including the New York cheesecake on Carbone’s beloved cake trolley — confirming orders at Butter, testing new recipes, hosting pastry-making sessions, and churning out new flavours for the group’s latest sweet addition, Gelato Messina.
No complaints though. Chef Karys, a born-and-raised Tucson native who traded desert sand for sky-rises in busy cityscape, arrived in Hong Kong three years ago and have always enjoyed the expansive breadth of flavours, creations and imagination the dessert world is often able to inspire — including witnessing that satisfactory joy that washes over the instant one sink their teeth into a freshly baked treat.
“In high school I was super focused on academics, and took as many Advanced Placement courses as I could,” she recalls. “I began baking a different sweet treat for each study group I would go to, and before I knew it, I had amassed a wide range of recipes and techniques. I found myself looking forward to baking more than the study groups!”
From there, her original trajectory into the field of neuroscience was quickly ditched as she segued into a different form of science that, while demanded the same meticulous focus and methodical precision, took place in the kitchen with electric mixing bowls instead: pastry arts.
As she completed her program from the Culinary Institute of America, chef Karys fastidiously honed her craft while training under various industry greats, including Franciso Migoya and, as she worked her through the Michelin-starred New York culinary institute, Daniel Boulud, and Noah Carroll, who she then became co-chef to during a stint at the Original Home of the Cronut, Dominique Ansel Bakery.
“I am inspired by so many different chefs! One piece of advice I try to follow is to surround yourself with positive people, especially the people you look up to,” she says.
Between racing up and down the SoHo neighbourhood taste-testing spoonfuls of cake, desserts and gelato, chef Karys manages to share a little insight of what’s currently behind the scenes at Messina. For those, who’ve been loving on the Hong Kong exclusive flavours from the gelateria, here’s another to look forward to as the weather begins to warm: Hong Kong-style French toast gelato.
“Think toasted Brioche gelato with swirls of condensed milk and peanut butter fudge,” she reveals.
See you in the queue.
Cheat Day with Karys Logue:
What was the last meal you had?
The last thing I ate was a spicy, hearty shakshuka that my partner, Jared, cooked for us. We had a rare morning off together, and so we made a breakfast feast of coffee, Mimosas and shakshuka with toasted sourdough bread and avocado.
What does being a chef mean to you?
Being a chef has so many different meanings. On one hand, you do something very basic and essential — every person prepares food. But on the other, especially being a pastry chef, you have the chance to step into people’s most celebratory, important moments, anything from weddings to birthdays or family gatherings and more.
What I have realised, especially in the last few years, is that I do not think that the most important food experiences are the most grandiose, but rather, the most heartfelt. I truly think about where my desserts will end up, how happy they will make people, and that is what motivates me to continue to raise the bar for myself.
The third aspect of being a chef, and perhaps the most important, is being a leader and a mentor. I work with the most wonderful people, and I have the privilege of learning from and being inspired by them each day. In particular, my sous chefs: Helen, Natalie, Daphne and Jared, bring so much meaning to my career. Teaching, then delegating, and seeing people flourish are crucial to my definition of being a chef.
Who inspires you / your cooking?
I look up to Franciso Migoya for his incredible innovation, design aesthetic and scientific precision. José Andrés is a crucial example of thinking beyond our own kitchens with his global humanitarian outreach. Dominique Crenn shows so much passion and heart in the way she leads her team, and inspires me as a leading female chef.
Tell me some of your signature dishes or creations at Messina/Butter/Black Sheep Restaurants.
Messina’s Black Sesame Tong Yuen Gelato. Super rich and not too sweet, the toasty flavour of the black sesame is delicious. We add in chewy tong yuen pieces to really evoke the classic Cantonese dessert.
Butter’s Apple Pie. I adapted this from my mom’s recipe, so it is pretty close to my heart. We make the crust super flaky with heaps of butter, and the filling features gala apples with just enough sweetness and spice.
How do you design your menu? What is your process?
I am always working on multiple menus: Butter, Messina, as well as creating items for more than 15 Black Sheep Restaurants! The process varies, for the restaurants I like to collaborate with the chefs to create a cohesive dessert menu to suit each restaurant’s story. When it comes to Butter, I dig into my own food memories, and classic, Americana inspiration. The most important part for Butter is not reinventing the wheel, or trying to change the classics too much, but rather recipe testing endlessly, until we really feel that we’ve represented the very best version of these universally loveable cakes and pies.
Honestly, what is it like working with you in the kitchen?
I am quite an intense, full-speed person when it comes to time in the kitchen. It is important to me to push my team to be thoughtful and inquisitive about their work, learn to multi-task, and continue to grow. I love to teach people new things, and ask for a lot of involvement when it comes to creating new ideas and new menu items. I want the team to feel that they have the opportunity to learn to create their own items, because when I was coming up in kitchens, I frequently felt that people viewed creativity as only for the chef. I think everyone has valid ideas, and learning to create can be highly motivating and confidence building.
I see a lot of areas of improvement for myself in terms of leadership and overall capacity, but I am proud to say that all of my sous chefs have worked with me in previous roles, and so I suppose that means that working with me can’t be that bad!
Your favourite local Hong Kong ingredients to use?
When I first came to HK, I really did a deep dive into Cantonese ingredients and desserts. I love to use salted duck egg, tofu, black tea, dried longan, pomelo, ginger, condensed milk and so many more. I think that Cantonese desserts show such a variety of textures, especially gummy and jelly textures. There is a wonderful balance that comes from keeping dishes lightly sweetened.
Do you cook at home? If so, what is your go-to home-cooked dish?
Truthfully, I have done a lot of home cooking since moving to Hong Kong, as I feel there is not a wide selection for healthy, vegetarian restaurants. I enjoy swapping from the precision of pastry at work to the casual way that I approach cooking for myself and my partner. One of my go to dishes is Sesame-marinated Baked Tofu served with Yuzu Soba and Wakame.
Name the top three favourite ingredients/condiments you currently own in your pantry.
- Tofu, we always have some form of tofu around the house. Adaptable, healthful and inexpensive!
- Green Curry Paste, there is a local shop near my home that makes their own green curry paste and it is delicious, so great for making an easy-to-prepare dinner.
- Spinach, easy to add to just about anything, also a main staple for feeding our pet bunnies.
You have 30 minutes. What will you make?
Pastry doesn’t lend itself too well to the ‘quick fire’ scenario, but 30 minutes is plenty if you keep it simple and loveable. I’d whip up a batch of brownies — super adaptable to any nuts/chocolate/toppings you want to add, and while baking you can always make a caramel sauce to fancy it up a bit.
What are your guilty pleasures?
A few years ago, I lived in Sydney, and my go-to indulgence was Cookies n’ Cream gelato at Messina. The shop was in the neighbourhood of some great clubs and after a fun evening out I could never say no to a few scoops. Who could have guessed that I’d end up creating new Messina flavours of my own?!
These days, my guilty pleasures include Sriracha Popcorn, Negronis and Mango Sticky Rice (and my current flavour obsession at Messina is Macadamia Crunch, for anyone who’s asking).
The best meal you ever had?
Ok, let me set the scene: local skewers shop, run by some quick-hustling women, open late. Basically a tiny, crowded, hole in the wall; definitely no folded napkins or amuse bouche in sight.
What made this one of the best meals I’ve ever had was a beautiful collision of things. I think great meals often come after some necessary search, in a way, questing after something makes it that much richer. This restaurant is not conveniently placed, and the meal timing was after a long Saturday night dinner service, but once we got there, the aroma of roasted food and the loud chatter of my friends took over.
More and more friends and colleagues showed up, and before I knew it, we had filled more than half the narrow restaurant. Somehow, we had placed orders from each end of the winding arrangement of tables. Plate after plate kept arriving until we had a mountain of food in front of us. Sizzling chicken wings, roasted corn, skewers of dumplings, and (most importantly) plates of cheong fun topped with scrambled egg. We spent the night eating, laughing, introducing some newcomers to Hong Kong culture, and celebrating my birthday. Can’t beat being surrounded by that kind of love and energy.
What was your most memorable food moment?
A food memory I really treasure is sharing warm flour tortillas with my mom. We would go after school when I was young to a restaurant where there would always be women hand-making tortillas. We would order a few and eat them with salsa as an after school snack. Nothing fancy about it, but warm tortillas really are a pleasure.
What is one dish/snack/food you can’t live without?
Hummus! On crackers, veggies, toast or pita, I adore hummus and definitely could not live without it.
Savoury or sweet?
I spend my day tasting every type of sweet treat (consider all 40 flavours of gelato at Messina!) so in my free time, I’m all about crunchy, spicy, savoury food!
Where do you like to go on your day off?
On my day off, I usually try to get outdoors: trail running around Siu Ma Shan or Tai Tam, heading up to Sai Kung for a beach day or doing yoga in Tamar Park.
The five best dishes or drinks you’ve had in Hong Kong?
Mapo Tofu (vegetarian!) at Ho Lee Fook, Chef ArChan is a genius, and her adaptability to cooking Chinese food that suits vegetarians is second to none. In addition to the Mapo Tofu, she always has seasonal local veggies for an off-menu special, as well as Salt and Pepper Tofu, an even a vegetarian cheong fun.
All things small plate at Francis, their hummus, zucchini salad, burnt eggplant dip.
Single Origin Negroni at Argo, I love the ambiance, the quality of service, and, of course, the cocktails. Argo’s menu is inspired and thoughtful; each time I go I discover a new favourite.
Kwong Wo Dou Bun Chong Tofu Pudding, nothing beats getting a bit of true, local flavour. The setting is all hustle and bustle, but their tofu fa with red sugar is truly timeless — it’s actually where we get the tofu from for our local Tofu Fa flavour at Messina.
Broccoli Nargis at Rajasthan Rifles, I love broccoli every which way, but Chef Palash really outdoes himself with this naughty and nice tandoor broccoli. Tangy notes of fresh cheese and rich eggy goodness make this great for brunch, dinner or a picnic on The Peak!
Something you want to try while in Hong Kong?
I have not yet run a marathon, but I think maybe this is the city where I could tick that off the list.
The post Cheat Day: Karys Logue, group pastry chef at Black Sheep Restaurants appeared first on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong.