Tributes paid to Hong Kong chef Pascal Breant after Frenchman dies in accident

Dedicated. Uncompromising. Amazing. That was Pascal Breant, says a former Hong Kong food industry colleague. Selfless was how his son described the chef and restaurateur following his sudden death this week.

Breant, 52, died on Sunday evening after falling down an escalator at Shun Tak Ferry terminal in Sheung Wan. He was reportedly found unconscious and rushed to Ruttonjee Hospital, where he was confirmed dead shortly afterwards.

The Frenchman was the chef/owner at Alchemy in Central, part of the French Creations restaurant group, where diners ate gourmet dishes in complete darkness. The restaurant opened in 2014.

“He only looked to put smiles on customers’ faces,” says his son Nicolas, 18. “He’s selfless – he never asks for anything in return.”

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Former colleague Angelo McDonnell recalls Breant’s dedication. “He was amazing, incredible heart, one of the best guys I worked with. He was dedicated to quality, uncompromising, no short cuts,” says McDonnell, chief culinary officer at Café Deco Group, which hired Breant to open Watermark above the Star Ferry Pier in 2007.

“He trained people well. He wouldn’t buy fish fillets – he would buy the whole fish and teach the guys under him how to fillet it properly. A lot of chefs can be tough, but he was fair.”

McDonnell says he first met Breant when he cooked at Le Parisien at IFC. “It had the best bistro food in Hong Kong. I got to know him there and we became friends. When we had an opportunity with Watermark we hired him.”

Breant’s passion for cooking began in Normandy, France, where he was born. As a boy he helped peel potatoes in an uncle’s bakery and by the age of eight wanted to be a baker.

However, as he saw other culinary techniques, Breant was more interested in becoming a chef.

“If he wanted to cook for us, he would explain each dish and how to make it,” son Nicolas explains. “And he has tons of pictures of his food. He would insist on taking pictures of each new dish before they went to the guest to keep as a record.”

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One of Breant’s signature dishes was pressed duck, created at the three-Michelin-star Tour d’Argent in Paris, where he had also worked. A young fatty duck, preferably from Rouen in Normandy, is partially roasted, the liver is ground, and then the legs and breast are removed. The rest of the meat, bones and skin are placed in a special press that extracts duck blood and other juices from the carcass. The extract is then thickened and flavoured with the duck liver, butter and cognac to make a sauce.

Son Nicolas will never forget a breakfast he had with his father the day before he died.

“Friday night he messaged me, asking if I wanted to have breakfast with him. Seeing that message brought a smile to my face,” he says. “We had a simple breakfast but it was a cherished father-son moment. Breakfast with him was rare because of his long working hours.”

Breant’s family is planning a memorial at a later date.

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