An Interview with Shane Osborn of St. Betty
As a symbol of the utmost quality in food and outstanding cuisine, a Michelin star is a feat that many chefs aspire to achieve. Not surprisingly, only a handful of restaurants globally are worthy of the title, as with the classification, comes the scrutiny of the food industry, the increased attention from gourmands around the world, and higher expectations. Not only has chef Shane Osborn successfully helped London’s Pied à Terre garner two Michelin stars, but he has worked with the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing, and was even the first British-based chef to cook for the European Council. With over 20 years of cooking experience, Chef Osborn has moved to Hong Kong to offer his talents to Alan Yau’s, St. Betty. Metting up with Chef Osborn, we gained a bit of insight into his work ethos, the reason for his move from the pristine Pied à Terre, and why the stars don’t even matter.
Could you introduce yourself? How did you get started in the industry?
My name is Shane Osborne, I’m the Chef of St. Betty in ifc. I’ve been in the industry for 20 years. I grew up in Australia and did an apprenticeship there. When I was 22 years old, I moved to the UK and spent most of my time there with a couple years in Sweden and now Hong Kong.
How would you describe your cooking style. Did you develop it mostly from formal training (technical), or is it more creative and inspiration based?
My style is best defined as modern European. With my Australian background I’ve been heavily influenced by a lot of Asian influences and spices and flavors as well as Indian flavors such as ginger and carraway.
How was the transition from working at Pied à Terre for so many years and now to St. Betty? How did the opportunity come about?
Well I decided I’d had enough of London and I wanted to do something different from what I’d been doing at Pied à Terre. I’ve always liked Hong Kong and St. Betty’s came about through restaurateur Alan Yau. When I heard he was doing St. Betty and that he needed someone to take over the kitchen, I jumped at the chance.
How is the Hong Kong restaurant landscape different than other cities? It seems pretty competitive?
To be quite honest, I haven’t seen it. Since I’ve arrived, I haven’t been anywhere. I think all big cities are very competitive and you really have to be on your game, and make sure you’re cooking 100% all the time and that you’re giving great value for money.
In your opinion, what separates the successful from the unsuccessful? Similarly, how have you looked to make St. Betty stand apart from its peers?
Consistency. I think when people are buying a product they want a consistent product all the time. That’s what defines the best restaurants and the restaurants that last. What I want to do at St. Betty’s is make it the best restaurant in Hong Kong. That doesn’t mean 3 stars, what it does mean is that people can come in and have a great meal with great service and have some fun at the same time.
Customer service seems to be something that is a make-or-break for people, what are your thoughts on this and what kind of things are important for you and how you treat clientele?
Well you know you’ve got to go out of your way to please your customers. Its all about hospitality. As long as you’re courteous, you’re well informed, and your staff knows what they’re doing, you’re able to convey what you’re trying to do.
From the viewpoint of someone who is not well-versed in the restaurant industry per se, yet enjoys trying new places, much of the first impression of a restaurant is based upon the environment and atmosphere created. How important is it to you that you create a welcoming atmosphere and how does the environment complement the cuisine?
Well I think the first minutes in a restaurant are very important. You really need to make people feel welcome when they’re coming in to dine with you. That and the food really needs to deliver.
Any last words of wisdom?
Enjoy your job, that’s all I say to people. If you’re not enjoying the job, stop it.