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Chef Mario Paecke of Margo talks German food and culinary inspirations

Margo, one of this summer’s most anticipated new openings, brings to Hong Kong a new – and fresh – evolution of the ever-popular Modern European formula.

The restaurant, a trendy, urban chic space that elevates the concept of brasserie, offers much more than Insta-worthy corners and plates.

I recently met with head chef Mario Paecke to discuss German food, multicultural inspirations and cooking with passion.

Margo
Chef Mario Paecke of Margo
What’s the inspiration behind Margo?

First of all, I’m really that I had the opportunity to open a restaurant, and to bring to Hong Kong my thoughts and my inspirations in a different way. What I want is to showcases dishes with a German twist. There is good German food beyond sausages and pork knuckles.

When I got the opportunity to come to Hong Kong in 2017, my inspiration was mostly a combination of French technique, German flavours and Asian influences, which I have been fascinated by since I started travelling the continent in 2012 and falling in love with it. My first fine dining restaurant was in the mountains, in a five star hotel in Bavaria, where I tried to introduced some Asian influences. Now, I’m doing the opposite. At Margo, the food is not 100% German but there are elements and dishes related to the country’ culinary traditions.

Margo
House of Kaviari Kristal Caviar with Sour Crème on Seaweed Brioche

Chefs in Germany are not very open minded, there’s a big sense of community in the culinary world, like there in other European countries, like France. Or in Italy and Spain, where governments are really proud of their cuisines. In Germany, maybe because of our history, a new era of fine dining didn’t start until the 90s and 2000s. Not so many people know about the fine dining scene in Germany, or how good our food actually is. There’s a lot of creativity but also a lot of individualism.

Does Margo reflect your journey and career as a Chef?

I’ve started a new journey here. A lot happened before this: My years in Germany as chef de cuisine, one Michelin star, the recognition from 50 Best. When I came here I started afresh cooking French fine dining. I was so inspired from Hong Kong in general as well as products from Japan, which I had never worked with in Germany.

The menu you see now at Margo is a combination of this, but it’s also just a first step. I’m already thinking of what’s next, what I can do. For me it’s also very important that the guests like our dishes. I need to see their reactions to see which dishes will become our signature. For each service, I wouldn’t say that I’m nervous, because you need to believe in yourself, but you have to be focus. There are a lot of emotions and passion that go into my food. I’m trying to find a balance here. See what people think by introducing refined German dishes but without restricting my creativity.

Margo
Königsberger Klopse (a German specialty of meatballs) with Langoustine Tails in Creamy Caper Sauce

The menu starts with a category called “Häppchen,” which means “bite” in Germany. For most Hong Kongers, understanding German cuisine is an education process and, while we don’t call ourself a German restaurant but a Modern European one with influences from the country, guests will be interested in new dishes when there’s an interesting story behind them to get to know the culture.

Why did become a chef?

My passion came from watching my grandma cooking every weekend. I followed my goal and I moved out at 16 to start my career, in a very small business, at a very junior level. You need to progress slowly, building up from the basics and then acquiring new skills.

Margo
Seasonal Salad with Rhubarb & Belper Knolle Cheese
If you had to choose three ingredients to cook with for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Potatoes, which I also used a lot on this menu, apples, and asparaguses. We are very passionate about them in Germany and I can’t wait for Asparagus season in March. You can do so many things with them.

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