We are so excited to present our brand new series: Hong Kong Green Heroes! We will be showcasing the talented and relentless individuals who are helping to make our hometown a greener, cleaner, kinder place to live and giving us eco warriors more accessible options! In our inaugural interview, Chef Peggy Chan shares herself with us – few people have done as much for Hong Kong’s green eating scene as Peggy. If you have not been to Grassroots Pantry yet, book a table immediately. Happy Reading!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Hong Kong before moving to Canada at the age of 5. All of my family members are huge foodies; thus, many of my childhood memories revolve around Vietnamese bánh mì and pho from Montreal Chinatown, French fine dining, French onion soup and barbecued ribs from Bar-B-Barn! Because of my parents’ respect for ancestral history, I have also been taught to love and revere our elders and traditions that have been passed down to us. We moved back to Hong Kong when I was 9, and my father made a point for us to travel to all parts of China every chance that we got – Nanjing, Guilin, Chengdu, Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, and on. I’ve travelled to the poorest slums being forced to try the most bizarre foods (pig’s brain, fried maggots, a beating snakes heart!); yet, gratefully, I would always return home to my mom’s fabulous home cooking. My mother is a wonderful host and cook.
I entered the world of F&B at the age of 16 and never turned back. I was originally trained in French cuisine and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute in Ottawa, Canada. I later obtained a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration with a double concentration in Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Management in Switzerland. Throughout the past decade, I’ve been lucky enough to work in numerous outstanding restaurants and hotels including Brunoise in Montreal, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, and The Peninsula Tokyo.
When did you first adopt a green lifestyle?
I stopped eating red meat 12 years ago, in consideration of animal welfare, and started reading a lot on food politics and sustainable agriculture. The inequality in our food system really struck me. Slowly I found myself writing more and more about food issues throughout Business and Hotel School, when I really should have been doing my thesis on “How to make money by providing good customer service”; but such topics felt insubstantial to me, in light of what I had learned. I have always been a conscious, healthy eater, and slowly, I became a full-on vegetarian.
What is your greenest daily habit?
That’s a tough one! I wouldn’t say there’s one specific habit that I can pinpoint as most “green,” because at the restaurant and in daily life, we try to integrate the values we hold dear – respect for the natural world and everything in it – into each and every one of our actions. Each piece of the journey toward a conscientious lifestyle may seem trivial, but we can all make a big impact through our collective small actions.
Tell us about Grassroots Pantry and its mission.
I created Grassroots Pantry a little over a year ago, because I am passionate about sharing clean, plant-based food with the community; supporting local, sustainable agriculture; and helping to educate the public about the issues that face our food systems today. Now, we have the opportunity to expand the space – we’re adding a daytime takeaway café and new workshop and private dining space next door – and we couldn’t be more thrilled and grateful for all the support we’ve received from the community!
I see vegetarianism as the most sustainable way to live and to eat and our mission at Grassroots Pantry is to allow more people to understand this movement as well. People should internalize this knowledge—not for me, for you, or for themselves, but for the betterment of our planet and for future generations.
What are some of the greenest features of Grassroots Pantry?
Roughly 90% of our ingredients are organic, and we source almost all of our produce from local, organic farms (through our good friends at Homegrown Foods and Zen Organic Farm).
Share a green Hong Kong tip with our readers.
It’s so important to eat local, to seek out ways to get closer to your food source, to know and trust your farmers and other producers. Head to a farmer’s market and ask the farmers about their approach to the land and their crops! Find small, artisanal producers who put love and care into their products! We often fall into the trap of thinking that bigger and faster are better, but it’s that kind of thinking that has led to the slew of systemic health and environmental issues with which we’re now faced.
Where is your favorite place to eat green in Hong Kong?
I would have to say my own home or my home-away-from-home, Grassroots Pantry! But when I go out, there are of course many other great restaurants making conscientious decisions about food production: my go-tos are Posto Pubblico, Linguine Fini, and Stone Nullah Tavern – the IHM team has had such a hugely important role in bringing focus to local, organic produce here in Hong Kong; plus, their food is delicious, and they provide great options for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike!
Stay tuned for more great Green Queen interviews with our city’s greenest heroes!