Capturing the hearts of many, Patty Boi is the latest bold food concept to hit the streets of Hong Kong. In celebration of Culinary Arts Appreciation Month, Hive Life catches up with renowned chef and entrepreneur, Russell Doctrove, on his culinary journey, exploring his craft, and the unique inspiration behind his Caribbean-inspired patties.
Born out of Russell Doctrove’s knack for developing unique and unconventional concepts, the chef infused his eclectic culinary style into the creation of his latest Caribbean-inspired comfort food venture, Patty Boi.
A well-known name in Hong Kong’s F&B scene, Russell spent most of his career experimenting in and delivering the finest culinary delicacies. During his time as an Executive Chef at award-winning restaurant group Maximal Concepts, Russell was always innovating as he led various projects including Fish & Meat and Stockton.
Two years ago, Russell pivoted with the changing times and began his foodpreneurial journey with his passion project, Angry Child, delivering hybrid sensory experiences with striking visuals, delicious food, and the founder’s idiosyncratic music styling. When the chef hat comes off, Russell enjoys setting dance floors ablaze with his sensational Djing.
With over 16 years of culinary experience under his belt, the multi-talented chef is now paying homage to Caribbean culture, innovating his very own recipe to success, supplying the city with his delicious and hearty patties infused with diverse Southeast Asian flavours and spices. Hive Life sat down with Russell to speak about his journey in establishing his career, diverse culinary experiences, and how he is bringing Caribbean cuisine to the city with Patty Boi.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I was born in Hong Kong, I lived and grew up here most of my whole life, and from a young age I knew that I wanted to go towards the hospitality-chef direction.
I then started mapping out my next career move, decided to move to the UK, and went to a culinary school there in Birmingham. It was a four-year course, that [taught me] the practical side of cooking, but also the business side of running a restaurant.
How did you initially enter the F&B scene?
After completing [culinary school], I decided to stay and work in London for about five years, and switched between two restaurants. One of them was The Waterside Inn, a classic French restaurant, and a great place to learn [different] techniques. Later, I sent off my CV to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, went for a trial, and landed a job there.
That was quite a different kitchen, it was more modern but rather regimented, starting at six in the morning and working till 11pm or midnight. It was intense yet an [ideal space] to learn everything very quickly.
After that, I moved back to Hong Kong, and joined Amber as a junior sous chef there. [Later], I had a friend who used to work at Maximal Concepts, who put me in touch with the owners and then we decided to open my first restaurant as a head chef, which was called Fish & Meat, with rustic style cooking.
Over the next 6 to 7 years, we started opening more restaurants and I got more involved in food concept creations. We opened Stockton, Limewood, and then I gravitated towards a group executive chef role where I started to oversee all the venues.
What is your favourite food memory?
I don’t think I have a favourite food memory, but I remember from a young age, going to the States for the first time and discovering the Food Network channel dedicated to cooking shows all day.
Also, when I was younger, going out for dinner to new restaurants was always an experience, something you would get dressed up for, and I enjoyed that vibe.
What was your best experience working as a chef?
It’s been almost 16 years- I started [working as a chef] once I graduated in 2006. My best experience was working at Restaurant Gordon Ramsey, you know. Most of the guys that I worked with at that stage in my life are now mostly head chefs of their own Michelin starred restaurants.
What are some of the different cuisines you have worked with?
I have done French, Italian, Thai, Mexican, Latin American, including Spanish and Japanese, and a little bit of molecular [gastronomy].
I never really wanted to specialise in just one cuisine because it can be quite limiting and I get bored rather easily. So I thought it is best to learn from where you can, whether it is a chef from that country, simply try to pick up tips and techniques as you go.
Is there a cuisine you particularly enjoy?
I would have to say Thai. I have always loved Thai food, but up until when we first opened the Thai restaurant, I had never really understood how the sauces and curries were made, and what ingredients were in there.
Being able to work with a Thai chef when opening Sip Song in Repulse Bay, it was a great insight into simply seeing the ingredients that they use, because there were many ingredients that I had never really used before in my past. There is something quite special about Thai cuisine.
What is your comfort food?
It rotates- I go through these obsessions, [but for now], I would probably say my go-to is Japanese, or anything that has bold flavours.
What inspired you to found Patty Boi in Hong Kong?
The Angry Child concept [introduces] Caribbean cuisine but using Southeast Asian ingredients. I [developed] a six-course menu and one of the [items] was a Jamaican patty, [which turned out to be] the most talked about dish. All my friends were telling me to open a patty shop but I was really against it at first, since I had been working on this restaurant concept. But with Covid dragging on, it was near impossible to open a new restaurant. So my business partner and I decided to pivot and see if we could create a concept around the patties, and that is how Patty Boi was born.
Can you share more about the concept behind Patty Boi?
I had surprisingly never eaten a patty before I made one. I researched, watched a few videos, and wanted to bring the same DNA of the Angry Child project into Patty Boi. We predominantly use flavours from Southeast Asia, whether its Thai, Indian, or Sri Lankan flavours, with bold curries, coconut milk, and chillies.
We then tried to figure out how the concept would work. Initially, we wanted to keep it quite simple, with one type of dough, but then many different fillings. While testing it out, we realised that we could try sweet patties as well, which was something that didn’t really exist too much.
Over time, we realised we had something special here, and decided to set up a website to exist virtually. I would then go into the kitchen, work on production, and once a week, we bake off all the orders that we’ve collected and deliver them.
How does the brand capture the essence of Caribbean culinary culture?
We wanted to create a brand that captures the roots of Caribbean tropical culture. We didn’t want to go down the route of being overtly Jamaican, [so we created] a more laid-back playful vibe with our own spin, taking inspiration from beach cultures around the world- the surfer [lifestyle]. Since we love cannabis culture, the patties are named after different strains of cannabis, giving each patty flavour its own identity.
Can you introduce us to the product range at Patty Boi?
The first patty that we did was the Island Kush, our signature patty. It’s minced beef, garlic chillies, and coconut cream. The next one is Jungle Spice, our take on beef rendang. It’s a little bit more of a spicy kick, with toasted coconut inside the mix as well.
We knew we had to do something with a vegetarian angle, so we came up with the Jack Herer, which was using jackfruit, kale, pumpkin, and peanut sauce.
We just released what we call the Jamaica OG, with a patty filling that most people would be familiar with. It was quite the trial and error at the beginning, but I had some recipes sent over and was able to figure out which ingredients get repeated.
Over the last few months, we have also done a cherry filling, called Skywalker, and the Pineapple Express, which is made of pineapple, dark rum, and brown sugar.
The mango sticky rice one is really popular, and when we realised we could do custard fillings, that [gave us] a whole different direction. We have done one with matcha and ube, which I love.
What has been a customer favourite so far?
The ube patty, called Purple Haze, was really popular. It is a flavour I remember having when I was a kid. The mango sticky rice flavour was one that I had on my mind for a while. People love the savoury patties, but I think that the dessert patties sort of surprised us a little since we thought that would be mostly secondary.
If we touch on the mango sticky rice [patty, since] I have worked in Thai restaurants and seen how they make it there, the challenge was that it needs to be frozen and then baked, and have the consistency remain the same. Usually, with anything I’m creating, it is [plenty of] trial and error, but I do my research beforehand and have a visual representation.
What is your favourite patty?
I would say Jungle Spice. I love beef rendang, it is a time-consuming curry to make in itself, and I am super happy with how those flavours turned out.
What advice do you have for aspiring chefs looking to break into the industry?
Be prepared for long hours, and whatever kitchen you work at, find the best chef there, get on their good side and gravitate towards them because they are good for a reason and you want to try and get that knowledge off them. Be the first one in and the last one out, that is the model that I used, and it seemed to serve me quite well!
What is next for Patty Boi?
We recently just secured an investment! I do consulting on the side where I consult with different restaurateurs- either they have existing restaurants and want to improve their menu or train their chefs, or they are looking to build something from the ground. One of the clients that I just recently finished a project with has always expressed that he wants to invest more in F&B and he loved [our concept], and wanted to bankroll us to get our own physical shop and expand to different parts of Southeast Asia.
The store will give us visibility and will be a great way to expand the Patty Boi brand. We have our own playlist that people can scan when they get their patty boxes. It’s quite an eclectic soundtrack, and it will be amazing to bring all of that together in a physical space. My wife is an interior designer and runs her own construction company, so she will be the one building it, so it will definitely be a fun project.
Are you personally working on any new ventures?
Patty Boi has taken the front seat lately, so the focus now is to get the store operational and start to look at locations. My partners and I are more interested in creating a lifestyle company, so we might do some small niche food or beverage items. Also, I love music and DJing, that is another concept we might do there!
Featured banner image: @thepattyboi