Home Cooking with Inspiring Chefs | Loic Catherine, JUNON
In our ongoing series of profiling interesting chefs, Habitat will take a peek behind the scenes at how they run their kitchens at home, what pantry staples they can’t do without, dishes that marked their childhood and their favourite ones to serve at their own dining table. They will also share a simple yet delectable recipe to add to your repertoire.
About Loic Catherine
This month we spoke to Loic Catherine, Executive Chef of JUNON, a contemporary French restaurant in Hong Kong. The original JUNON restaurant was established half a century ago at the top floor of Wu Sang House, the tallest commercial building in Mong Kok - its legacy now resides at a new home in Wu Chung House within the bustling district of Wan Chai.
Hailing from Nice in the South of France, Loic brings years of culinary experience to the table and is a veteran of fine dining and French cuisine. His love for food sprung from an early age where he used to cook alongside his mother in the kitchen, learning the techniques of traditional French home cooking. He pursued his passion by finishing his culinary studies, which propelled him to work at iconic hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants around France before moving to do the same in Hong Kong.
Now, Loic takes pride in creating delectable French dishes with a modern touch at JUNON, sharing his love for French cuisine with Hong Kong diners in his signature “Bistronomic” (French casual fine dining) style.
Name: Loic Catherine
Lives in: Kowloon
Social media: @chef_loic.hk
When did you decide to become a French chef? What/who inspired you?
I must have been around only 3 or 4 years old when I started following my mom around the kitchen trying to help her cook a meal! Both of my parents are what you might call ‘foodies’, and they gave me the chance to discover many new restaurants and dishes starting from a young age, which inspired me to try them out myself in the kitchen.
When I was 14, I remember my parents taking us out for a meal to celebrate my sister’s birthday. We went to a restaurant belonging to the most iconic French chef – the 3-Michelin starred Paul Bocuse! There, I got my first taste of modern French cuisine. After the meal, Chef Paul Bocuse himself came to our table to ask how we enjoyed the food. As my family chatted with him and learned more about the processes of his cooking, it was in that moment I realised I truly wanted to be a chef.
What is your most memorable food/cooking experience from childhood?
I remember visiting George Blanc’s 3-Michelin starred French restaurant when I was 8 years old and encountering an enormous cheese platter. I was so fascinated by this that I asked to try all of the different cheeses – there must have been around 15 of them! After trying them all, I got to ask for a second round of my favourite ones.
How do you stay inspired and motivated?
I stay inspired by constantly wanting to improve myself and the food I create at JUNON Hong Kong. I like to go around and try new restaurants to get fresh ideas, or read up on some recipes online to remind myself that food can always be reinvented.
I’m always motivated because I think being a chef is an amazing job! I can travel the world, meet new people from different cultures, try their local food and gather inspiration to create even better versions of my own dishes.
One dish that inspired you the most or means the most to you.
Cheese souffle – it’s a savoury waffle with Emmental cheese which my mom always cooks to perfection. The smell and taste always brings back so many nice memories.
At Home and Relaxing
How do you spend your time at home these days?
Usually, I enjoy reading books that will teach me some interesting recipes, or new knowledge about different types of food. I love finding new ways to step up my cooking skills and abilities which I can also share with my team when I get back to the restaurant kitchen.
How often do you cook for yourself / order takeaways and where from?
I don’t usually cook for myself, but I love cooking for friends – it’s fun when they are interested in what I am doing and I can share some of my home cooking tips with them, or share some knowledge about French cuisine.
What do you do to relax and unwind on your days off?
The main thing for me is to be active during my days off. I really enjoy playing sports like squash or CrossFit. To relax and unwind on my work days, I do 10 to 20 minutes of meditation when I get home to de-stress after a busy shift.
What’s your favourite Hong Kong dish and why? Can you make (some versions of) it at home?
I love to eat jellyfish! The texture and sauce used in Chinese restaurants are a great combo. I would love to make this at home but I would first need to learn how to prepare jellyfish itself.
Where do you go for groceries? Do you plan your shopping in advance with lists or follow your heart?
It really depends what I’m looking for. If it’s fruit or vegetables, I will go to the local market so I can get the freshest seasonal ingredients. For meat and fish, I usually go to the supermarket.
I usually plan what I buy so I don’t forget the main things I need, but sometimes I do get excited about the freshness of a random product or seasonal produce and just have to buy them to make something out of!
Any advice on how to stock our fridge and pantry?
First of all, use a ‘first in, first out’ rule to avoid wastage. Then try to categorise your fridge in food groups like dairy, meat/fish, vegetables/fruit. Also practice cleaning your produce to avoid cross contamination, such as washing your eggs before you put them in the fridge.
Three ingredients/staples you can’t do without.
Olive oil, butter and salt.
What’s your go-to dish for home cooking?
Roasted chicken with thyme and garlic, garnished with a creamy mashed potato.
What is your approach to entertaining at home – do you cook to impress or keep it casual and fuss-free?
It really depends on the occasion. If it’s for something festive, I will definitely try to impress my family and friends with some fun dinner party ideas using unique techniques and flavours. But if it’s a casual Monday dinner at home, I will just do something fuss-free.
What’s on your playlist when having guests at your dining table?
If it’s a family dinner, I will probably go for a more chilled and relaxed playlist so everyone can comfortably talk and hear each other at the table. If it’s with friends, I’ll put on something more fun that we could dance to and bring an upbeat mood to the dinner party.
Please share with us a crowd-pleasing recipe for a dinner party at home.
Okay, it will be our secret so don't tell anyone. To please people with some simple French cuisine home cooking, just do a wonderful Potato Gratin paired with your choice of meat. You will need to do the following:
2 kg Agria potatoes
1 L 35% cream or light whipping cream
4 pc garlic clove
2 pc thyme
Salt/pepper to taste
100 g Emmental cheese, grated (optional)
- Peel the potatoes and rinse them. After this, start slicing the potatoes around 3 mm thick.
- At the same time, add your cream, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper inside a cooking pot to infuse.
- When your potatoes are sliced, drain the cream to get rid of any large pieces of garlic clove and start to cook the potatoes inside the cream until 70% cooked.
- Move the cream and potato mixture onto a cooking tray and bake at 170 degrees until soft. You can test for softness by sliding a knife smoothly into the potato.
- Keep checking the colouration of your potato gratin as it cooks. If it starts to brown but isn’t soft yet, add some aluminium foil to the top. Once the potato is cooked, you can choose to add Emmental cheese over the top to make it melt and leave to bake for a few more minutes.
- This dish can be cooked 1-2 hours before guests arrive, just keep the aluminium foil on top of the tray.