Hong Kong boasts one of the most dynamic dining scenes on the planet, filled with culinarians and tastemakers galore. In our Cheat Day column, we spotlight some of the top players in the kitchen and behind the bar, delving into their personal favourites during their days off. This week, we speak with multihyphenate Kevin Lim of Mean Noodles.
While the majority of us folk tend to possess quite singular interests, Kevin Lim stands out in the field of F&B by not only being a whizz in the kitchen, but also having architected and designed his own venue. He currently runs OpenUU, his award-winning interdisciplinary design studio, with wife Caroline Chou, and is the unassuming mastermind behind Mean Noodles’ menu.
How did you develop an interest in cooking?
During my last year of architecture, I moved in with my brother and couple of friends. It was far from the college town so I ended up cooking a lot. I started experimenting a bit more with my dishes and that was where it all started. After graduating a semester early, I decided to go work in a relatively high-end bistro by the university before the graduation ceremony. That gave me the motivation to go to culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu, to really study and understand the art of cooking.
Initially, it was meant to give me a better idea of how the restaurant industries work so that I could focus on restaurant design, to understand the back end of F&B. But then, coming back, I realized that that journey inspired me to want to open my own restaurant. It didn’t happen immediately, of course. My wife and I moved permanently to Hong Kong in 2012, but we only opened Mean Noodles in 2018.
What was your experience designing your own venue?
It’s funny because when we design for other people, we’re always bemoaning the fact that they take so long to make seemingly minor decisions. When we were finally on the other side, we understood why the process took so long for them. There was definitely a lot of back-and-forth. It was a good challenge for us because we could envision what we wanted, and we had the tools to do exactly that.
What inspires your cooking at Mean Noodles?
Malaysian food for me is about the culture of family growing up. We used to fly back a few times a year, growing up, so I’m very much influenced by South-East Asian cooking. My interest really lies in fusion food though.
What is something very few people know about you?
I always had a mild interest in pastries, but during Covid, I started baking a lot more, especially sourdough. I have a couple of friends whom I talk about baking with, we always send photos of our loaves to each other to compare and improve. I was making breads, pizzas and croissants – croissants were a little hard at first, it’s all about the technique.
Tell us about your YouTube channel, Kevin’s Kitchen.
I started my YouTube channel as a way for me to experiment, but, being more of a chef, it became more of featuring recipes that I’ve cooked before – stuff that my friends have tried and asked me to give them the recipes for. For the last two months, we’ve been uploading every week. I’m recording about two videos a week at the moment, it’s been fun. We haven’t mass-marketed it or anything. It’s more of a diary for me to express myself.
Cheat Day time! Which are five indulgent dishes you delight in during your days off?
Just a little preface for why these are mostly meat-based dishes, I try to stick to a plant-based diet on weekdays, and weekends is usually when I eat more freely: