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British chef Lee Westcott on Hong Kong’s taxis and crispy fish skin

What do you miss about Hong Kong? “I like the vibe of the city. When I went back to London I was excited because there was a whole new set of restaurants I’d never been to. Now that I’m back in Hong Kong there are new places I can try. I really missed Yardbird [when I was away]. I used to go there three to four times a week. I ate all the skewers and the popcorn balls were so good. And the taxis here are so cheap.”

Tell us about Typing Room. “It’s in an old town hall in east London and the space used to be the typing room for the council, and then it was a bank. So when we were looking for names, we looked at the history, the old marble and wood, the old characteristics. The menu is in a type­writer font. We’ve been open for nearly three years now. It’s getting busier and busier, with good reviews.”

What are your childhood memories of food? “I remember my mum and nan cooking vegetables. I grew up in a normal household with six kids and I am the second oldest. They always made tasty home-made dishes that could be eaten by many people. I fell into cooking when I left school at 16. I worked in a pub in my hometown of Stevenage [north of London], washing dishes. I’d watch the chefs and wanted to get involved, so I’d come in on days off and learn. I enjoyed cooking. Two days after my 18th birthday I moved to London and worked my way up the ladder.”

You’ve worked for René Redzepi, Thomas Keller, Gordon Ramsay and Tom Aikens. Who’s had the most influence? “I learned to cook with Aikens but René, at Noma, looked at food differently; it was about letting the ingredients speak for themselves and focus on the natural taste. At Typing Room we do cauliflower eight ways for a dish. Tom could take vegetables and do 100 things with them. At Noma we would do no more than one or two things. So I’m in the middle, taking a bit from everything I learned.”

What ideas did you take from Hong Kong? “When I was here I saw locals buy dried fish skin and eat it. So on our menu we have crispy cod skin with smoked cod and oyster and dill emulsion. It’s one of our biggest hits.”

Favourite Hong Kong restaurants of British chef Jason Atherton

What did you learn from 22 Ships’ Jason Atherton? “We didn’t spend a lot of time cooking together like I did with other chefs. He taught me how to run a business and make it profitable. He’s very smart with that – he knows what people want. It’s not just about the food, it’s about the décor, the staff, the uniforms. He’s very hands-on with every single thing.”

Where do you like to eat in London? “I like to go to Lyle’s, an easy-going, laid-back dining room. The Clove Club is fine dining, with chef Isaac [McHale] pushing boundaries. Little Social is one of Jason’s restaurants – my favourite – a French bistro using British products. It serves the best pork chops I’ve ever eaten.”

Where do you find inspi­ration? “It’s quite diverse: I read a lot of cookbooks, go out and eat, or it can come from art – I look at it and the colours and shapes make me think of a dish. It’s hard to sit down and write up a new dish. The best ones are those that come to you when you’re in the shower.”

What do you do when you’re not cooking? “I eat out a lot. I exercise quite a lot to de-stress – running, cycling, swim­ming, no triathlons. I’ll swim two to three times a week and, when I get bored, I’ll switch to running, and then cycling.”