From busboy jobs as a teenager in Massachusetts to studying at the Culinary Institute of America in New York to his first head chef position in San Francisco, Jeffrey Le Bon’s early affinity for food and fine dining led him around the country. And as his career grew, it would eventually lead him around the world.
In 2003, Le Bon visited his future wife in Hong Kong whom he had met in San Francisco and who was from Hong Kong. Securing a chef position on the last day of his visit, Le Bon made the move and has been working in fine dining establishments for 16 years. Throughout that time, he has noted differences in the preferences of dining customers.
“In the states, diners are more open to the chef’s interpretation of a dish,” Le Bon said. “I have found working here that people are much more tied to authenticity. Even a Michelin-starred restaurant might fade away and not last as long as a more authentic one.”
After more than 10 years as a chef, Le Bon transitioned to a front-of-house position five years ago to serve as the operations manager for Red Sauce Hospitality, a restaurant group that owns and operates four Italian restaurants in Hong Kong and an online organic food store. It’s a move that required some adjustment after years of leading a team in the kitchen.
“Moving to the front-of-house role meant being more aware of my presence. I had to learn to open up a bit to channel a different energy than as a chef and give customers a good vibe,” Le Bon said. “I take a lot of pride in what I do no matter where I am in the restaurant.”
In his operations role, Le Bon manages projects, makes purchasing and sourcing decisions for the restaurants, and oversees maintenance of the establishments, among other duties. It was through his responsibilities in purchasing that he connected with The Bread Stone Ovens Company. One of the Red Sauce restaurants, Fini’s, was being renovated, leaving open a corner area in the bar that they wanted to fill with a pizza oven.
After researching different products, Le Bon was impressed by the self-rotating pizza stones from Bread Stone Ovens. The copper oven was shipped over by sea and arrived in December. Since then, Le Bon has received great feedback from customers on the pizza.
“The flavor of the pizza has been amazing and because of the way it operates, it makes a very consistent product,” he said. “And since you do not have to open the oven to rotate the pizza, it maintains its heat.” The staff is able to use the oven in the morning for prep work as well, such as cooking vegetables and roasting chicken.
The oven is currently in a Fini’s restaurant in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong, but Red Sauce Hospitality is hoping to expand the Fini’s brand (there is another one in the SoHo district) not just in Hong Kong, but internationally.
“People outside of Asia see Asia as new frontier for business, and as a chef, there are a lot more foods and products that are available now versus 16 years ago. People here are interested in growth and want to expand their business,” Le Bon said. “Our company also wants to grow and I see no reason why we won’t continue to do that.”
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