20 People changing the way we eat and drink - 2
The new-generation farmer
The first thing you notice about Zen Organic is its colourful landscape. The fields are covered in gem green and purple leaves, heirloom tomatoes come in various shades and even the fig trees are decorated in gold, green or yellow fruits. “We grow produce that is different – the types of fruits and vegetables that you can’t find at most other farms in Hong Kong. Those are the types that we try here,” says Zen Organic’s owner Ng Ping-leung. The sprawling, 250,000sq ft space used to be his father’s pig farm. When he and his sister Joey Ng Pik-wan inherited it four years ago, they changed the pigsties into covered plots and converted the land into an arable, organic farm.
Coming from a photography background while his sister worked in the fashion industry, Ng recounts that the two of them pretty much started from zero when they launched Zen Organic. But in a few short years, they’ve become part of a new generation of farmers – one that’s integrated modern skills and concepts into traditional agricultural practices. Now, their heirloom tomatoes can be found adorning pastas at Posto Pubblico, while their plump strawberries and golden figs make regular appearances at the Four Seasons hotel where resident pastry chef Gregoire Michaud is a self-proclaimed fan. For Ng, this is a big milestone: “People used to think that locally farmed ingredients couldn’t look as good as imported fruits and vegetables. But now we can show them that Hong Kong soil also creates top quality produce.”
Zen Organic Farm
Ping Che, Ta Kwu Ling, 6692 2671;
Bertha Lo-Hofford & Alex Hofford
The shark savers
When The Peninsula Hotels pledged to ban shark’s fin at all of their group’s outlets at the beginning of this year, it was a seminal moment for Bertha and Alex Hofford. The husband and wife team have dedicated themselves to shark conservation and have spent the past few years pushing restaurants, hotels and consumers to boycott the luxury ingredient. “Shark finning is a very urgent issue,” says Alex. “Experts predict that 90 percent of the world’s shark populous will be wiped out in 10 to 15 years.” In 2010, Alex published Man & Shark with Paul Hilton – a 192-page book filled with gripping, behind-the-scenes images of the shark finning industry. The book created a huge public outcry against shark finning and all proceeds went towards My Ocean, a marine conservation charity that also operates the HK Shark Foundation.
“It’s not just about the cruelty of shark finning,” says Bertha, programme director at the HKSF. “It’s about the sustainability and welfare of future generations.” The two have helped organise various awareness campaigns throughout the years, including plank mobs, corporate talks and HKSF’s recent ‘happy hearts love sharks’ wedding competition urging marrying couples to forgo shark’s fin at their banquets. As Bertha explains: “Shark fin soup is a tradition in Chinese culture but people need to understand that some traditions are good while other traditions are not so good.”
The man making wine appreciation hip
The Flying Winemaker is anything but your typical wine store. There’s rock music playing over the sound system, the staff strut around in casual shirts and jeans and there’s a ‘Top 12’ wall displaying bottles the way a record shop displays its hottest selling hits. And that’s only the first floor. Head upstairs and it gets really interesting. Owner Eddie McDougall (who’ll be celebrating his 29th birthday as this issue of Time Out hits the newsstands) calls it his ‘wine lab’ and it’s in this space that he hosts seminars and tasting sessions designed to broaden our knowledge of reds, whites and everything in between. His ‘tongue explorer’ classes for example, break down the complexities of wine in the simplest, sensory terms. “It’s all about connecting with people through the palate,” he explains. An award-winning vintner himself, McDougall also offers ‘blend master’ classes that lift the veil on the actual winemaking process by giving people a chance to create their own unique blend, complete with lab coats and cool chem-lab equipment. At the heart of it though, what really makes McDougall’s classes stand out is the approachability of it all. There’s no snobbery, no pretension – it just boils down to understanding wines better and having a really good time while you’re at it. As McDougall puts it: “Wine is meant to be fun. Wine is meant to be relaxed. Wine is meant to be for real people.” How can anyone argue with that?
The Flying Winemaker
31 Wyndham St, Central,
2522 2187; www.eddiemcdougall.com