Stepping into its 10th year, Spanish restaurant Fofo by el Willy prides itself on quality and authenticity. We talked to Executive Chef Alex Fargas about his culinary journey, and his formula for running a successful restaurant in HK.
Can you tell us about your background. How did you arrive at Fofo?
I started working in the kitchen at a young age after graduating from Hofmann Culinary School in Barcelona. I was then fortunate enough to be working in China, where I first met Chef Willy. In 2009, I was working in Dubai when Chef Willy’s team contacted me about the concept of Fofo. I was only 26 years old, so it was a big step for me, but things turned out really well. And here we are 10 years later! Hong Kong is a great place to run a restaurant as people appreciate and love food. This is why I am very happy to be here.
Following the success of El Willy in Shanghai, how does Fofo cater to local preferences in Hong Kong?
I believe the secret lies in the human approach. I like talking to customers and to understand their preferences. More often than not, as we are a small team, we make some last-minute changes to the menu according to the customer’s taste. A lot of our regular guests really appreciate the customization we do for them. That’s one of the reasons why we have strong relationships with our customers.
One of your signatures is suckling pig. Can you talk us through the inspiration behind this beautiful dish?
The suckling pig is a traditional Spanish dish which originates in Segovia. You can easily find restaurants there which specialise in making whole suckling pigs. We try to reproduce the same texture of the skin, and the same softness of the meat here. Therefore, we only use milk-fed sucking pigs that weigh 4kg. This is important because we want the layer of fat between the skin and meat to be very thin. We slow cook it for 12 hours to make sure the meat is tender, then roast it for 45 minutes. It is served with a sauce called Moji Picón, which is made of garlic and chilli. If you compare the Spanish suckling pigs to that in other cuisines, you will taste more of the pig as well as a juicier finish.
How would you describe the dining experience in Fofo for those who are not familiar with Spanish cuisine?
Spanish cuisine is all about sharing. So we want Fofo to be a place where you can talk and spend quality time with friends. At the same time, we want to make it fun, with the interior and the friendly service.
As a Spanish restaurant focussed on the Spanish experience, do you source all your ingredients from Spain?
When I first arrived Hong Kong, I couldn’t even get olive oil from the suppliers we worked with! Nowadays, almost everything from Spain can be found here: Iberico ham, red prawns, suckling pig and maybe 10-15 different brands of olive oil. As a Spanish restaurant we prefer to use ingredients from Spain, giving our customers a different experience than what they could have at home. Of course there are some ingredients we buy from other places, like Australian wagyu beef, but that’s because our customers prefer that over the Spanish beef.
What do you think about review platforms and social media?
I think we can learn and grow from bad reviews. But sometimes, there’s a lack of respect from people who don’t understand that we are also humans. And humans make mistakes. Therefore, we can only keep doing what we do, and hopefully these review platforms will find a new mechanism to monitor these comments.
On the other hand, I think social media is good for inspiration. I often get inspired by ideas from other chefs and try to incorporate a little bit of that into my new dishes.
Your dishes are very photogenic. What do you think about professional food photography and food photos on social media?
As an art-form to show how beautiful a dish can be, food photography is great. But, it cannot be overdone. You may be stunned by a photo of the dish, but get disappointed when the food is served. That’s because they are not the same thing. I will never do that. I try to make the dish as it is, so the camera can capture the essence of it.
Address: 20/F, M88, 2 Wellington St, Central, Hong Kong
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday 12–2:30pm, 6:30–10:30pm
Dishtag favourites: Steak Tartar, La Tomatina, Tallarines de Sepia, Pulpo a la Gallega
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