As one of the few people in Hong Kong who focuses on making health food more accessible, it’s not surprising how much Ricky Cheuk actually knows about what it takes to live a healthy lifestyle. Having opened The Elephas, Hong Kong’s latest go-to spot to get your health fix, Cheuk is now looking to educate the public through his latest venture. As part-owner of NOM and Warrior Muay Thai, we spoke to Cheuk about making a difference in a city where health-conscious eating is a new and growing concept.
“It’s hard to get a healthy meal in Hong Kong”, Cheuk explained. “We deal with the headache of living in small houses, where there is no room to cook, and the food available in the supermarkets is limited. On top of that, the health food on the market is lacking flavour. Yes, it’s healthy, it’s organic, but to me it needs to taste good, especially when you train up to five times a week. Who wants to eat cold salads every day?”
The concept… was about creating a space where people can eat healthy and be around like-minded people, creating a community within the establishment. The Elephas is a restaurant-level health bar with an Asian twist, focusing on healthy Thai food without all the heavy sauces. Besides the base salads, everything is executed on the spot so we can bring cooking back to salads — it’s fulfilling.
Inspiration for our dishes… mainly comes from what’s seasonal. We change our salads everyday, which allows us to use everything that arrives fresh at the markets. It’s important for us to be taken seriously, and I think we make that happen through changing our dishes continuously and always offering quality and consistency.
What makes us stand out… is our approach to what we offer. Healthy food is often seen in a negative light, which we’re trying to change in an affordable way, without compromising flavour and nutritional value. Nothing is pre-made, so whenever anyone wants to take something out of our dishes, we’re able to accommodate, which people appreciate. Our consumers are able to pick and choose as they wish, making us able to tailor the meal towards their needs.
Health is… all about balance. If you’re not balanced, your body is not happy and you won’t get results you’re working so hard for. Whether you’re trying to get a six-pack or bigger chest, the entire process needs to be broken down. Getting in shape is just the end result. It’s important to remember that specific lifestyles can cause a lot of stress, which affects how healthy you are. On top of that, diet and physical activity are big parts of becoming healthy. When it comes to your diet, it’s so unique to everyone: what may work for you won’t work for someone else.
The thing about diets… is that it doesn’t matter how strict your diet plan is, you won’t follow it if all they offer is tasteless food. I’m used to seeing people at the gym eating pre-made meals, which have probably been cooked in the morning. Though there’s no oil or salt, you end up microwaving your meal. It’s terrible to see when people don’t even care about enjoying their meals because it’s marketed as healthy. It’s a misconception that healthy food is tasteless, which we’re trying to educate our costumers on.
Favourite places in Hong Kong… are Sai Kung and Big Wave Bay. I love being outdoors, getting away from the city to go for a hike or surfing. For a drink, I enjoy going to Sugar in Taikoo, as the rooftop offers a beautiful view of the skyline. When I go out for a meal, I either go to Kowloon City, Fook Lam Moon for dim sum or Sushi Shin in Tai Hang for Japanese food.
My vision… is to make health food more accessible. The healthy community across the world has become a marketing campaign, which makes me wonder: do we really want to educate people on how to be healthy, or is it just about making money? I’d like to see us focus on healthy food without all the marketing, make it more accessible and affordable. There are plenty of people who want to be healthy but feel like they can’t afford it.
How Hong Kong has developed… compared to the way things were a few years ago, it’s great to see how schools are making a difference, too. We’re still behind compared to the rest of the world but we’re getting there, we are moving in the right direction. By looking at the amount of health-food restaurants opening up, you can see the change but the question continues to be: do people want to spend all that money on it?
Our next step… is to expand to other countries. We recently got approached to open up a health-food concept in China but for now, we want to focus on The Elephas in Hong Kong. You see things close as fast as they’ve opened, so we want to take our time and do it right. For now, we’re just excited to continue to improve what we’re doing.
The Elephas, Shop 118, 1/F, Hong Kong Plaza, 188 Connaught Road West, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong, +852 2838 3979, theelephas.com
Photography by: Claudia Lee.