Chef Richard Ekkebus standing in the kitchen of Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong

The future of sustainable gastronomy


Culinary director at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong Richard Ekkebus gives us the inside track on how to win a Green Michelin Star and challenge conventional ideas about luxury.

Chef Richard Ekkebus has been leading the charge at Amber, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong’s two-Michelin-starred French restaurant, for more than 18 years. In that time, he’s transformed the approach of both the restaurant and the hotel in terms of cuisine and sustainability, challenging perceptions and practices to create a dining experience that has kept Amber on Michelin’s leaderboard for the last 14 years. In 2022, it was awarded a Green Michelin star, and is one of just two Hong Kong restaurants to currently hold the accolade. We spoke to Richard about his journey within sustainable gastronomy, plus his top spots for green eating around the world.

The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong has always been ahead of the curve in its eco-credentials. We were a pioneer in eliminating single-use plastics, and now every hotel in the group has adopted the policy. Our rooms were some of the first to contain bottled water that’s been filtered in-house, and now every hotel has a bottling plant in conjunction with Nordaq’s patented water filters. In the last two years, we’ve used only cage-free eggs, we use meat and poultry that are free of growth hormones and antibiotics, and generally try to source the most pristine products possible, which is really the ultimate luxury, to me.

When I arrived in Hong Kong, I was surprised that there was no segregation of waste whatsoever, so that’s where I started with Amber. Today, we separate all our waste, recycle where possible, and work with a waste oil recycling company to transform cooking oil into renewable energy, which is then used for fuelling boats in Hong Kong’s waters. We’ve looked at the perceived opulence and abundance of seafood in Hong Kong, too. There’s an ideology that the rarer or more expensive, the better. We wanted to challenge that mindset, so we created a policy for sustainable seafood, such as banning shark fin from our menus, which we were the first international hotel group to do. Now, no international hotel in Hong Kong serves it.

You’d think that in a city where a significant part of the population is Buddhist and therefore plant-based, that vegetarian diets would be an easy sell, but Hong Kong is one of the heaviest consumers of animal proteins on the planet. It’s also one of the top consumers of Brazilian beef, and we are in the top three in terms of seafood consumption. It was always my motto that if there was a place to start, Hong Kong would be it.

Critics might not expect a restaurant that centres on indulgence to make such a strong statement on sustainability, but I believe that change comes from above. So, if we show that it’s possible, there’s no excuse for others to avoid it. We aren’t a vegetarian restaurant and we’re not trying to be, but we do want to raise awareness that fewer animal products are better, and plant-based dishes are incredibly delicious. If you compare the plant kingdom with the animal, there are endless options in colour, texture and shape. Many of us have become institutionalised to believe that one third of our meal must be potato, the other meat and the other a green vegetable, so I think it’s an exciting opportunity for a chef to work with such diversity in the plant kingdom.

Top tables: Richard’s favourite eco-friendly restaurants