Meet Chef Shane Osborn, a household name in the global culinary scene, a finalist on Netflix’s The Final Table and owner of the acclaimed, Michelin-starred restaurant Arcane in Hong Kong.
Shane Osborn is no stranger to Michelin awards. After all, the internationally lauded chef is the only Australian in the world with two stars under his belt thanks to his time at restaurant Pied à Terre in London. Now based in Hong Kong, where his first solo venture Arcane has been placed in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Discovery Series, his most recent stellar experience has been as a contestant on Netflix’s cult cooking show The Final Table alongside 11 Westside’s Chef Esdras Ochoa. In the process of planning his second Hong Kong opening, he sat down with Hive Life to talk us through his career, his passions and his time on TV.
Shane’s story starts back home in Perth, where he started whisking up different dishes at home as a child. By the time he was 12, he would follow his mum to her catering jobs, falling quickly in love with the idea of becoming a chef. He put in the hard graft, doing a four-year apprenticeship whilst attending college. “Working 70 to 80 hours a week while your friends are going off to the cinema with their girlfriends, playing sports and having a social life while you’re working every night is a lonesome start to your teenage years. But I just loved the work in the kitchen,” Shane smiles. “The feeling was never strong enough to make me quit.”
At 20, he bought a one-way ticket to London and spent the next 10 years working beside London’s biggest chefs including Marcus Wareing, Philip Howard and Tom Aikens. Eventually, at just 30, Shane replaced Tom as the head chef at Pied à Terre, where he stayed for a decade. Next up, he took on Hong Kong. “After spending a long time in the UK, I just wanted to change the scenery. My wife and I wanted to get out of Europe and have an adventure.” They travelled for 11 months, eyeing up Singapore and Shanghai first before settling on their new home. “Hong Kong seemed like the best fit – the lifestyle, clientele base. The food scene here was probably the best out of those three, I just felt like it was the right place.”
Shane spent two years working as a food consultant before opening his European fine dining restaurant Arcane in 2014. “That was the plan, always – to open my own restaurant.” He cultivated his dream in a 2,000-square-foot space with an English garden-like terrace, and an open, in-house kitchen garden growing a variety of 30 assorted herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Sourcing what he can from farms in the New Territories, he gets most of his ingredients from the UK, France, and Japan. Take his gems from the latter, found in Arcane’s now fabled dish, ‘Japanese Fruit Tomatoes with Burrata.’ “It’s one of those things that people talk about every time they come in. It’s pretty much every day that people are asking me where I got the tomatoes from,” he says.
Accolades aside, Shane has encountered the same issue most small businesses in Hong Kong face. “Exorbitant rent. That’s the number one battle we all have,” he sighs. “It’s difficult, it’s really difficult and it’s not getting any better.” Plagued with the pitfalls of high costs, he goes the extra mile to ensure there is no wastage in the kitchen. “I make sure everything I bring into the business is going to be sold.”
Clearly an expert on the ins and outs of Hong Kong’s F&B industry, it was no surprise that Shane was asked to represent his adopted city in Netflix’s sensational cooking competition The Final Table. Not usually a big fan of culinary shows, he was soon sold. “I thought I’d like to be part of a cooking competition where I can help show the positive side of our industry instead of how hard it is and how brutal some of the chefs are. It was time to show that the industry is full of good people.”
Along with his teammate, fellow Australian chef Mark Best, Shane lived and worked at Sony Pictures Studios in California for seven weeks, whilst the Dick Cheney movie Vice was shooting right next door. “It was kind of quite incredible to be in the Sony canteen with stars and producers walking around,” he laughs. His big Hollywood moment came when he saw a guy with dreadlocks donning ripped jeans, cowboy boots, and sunglasses stroll into the hotel gym at six one morning. “I realised, it’s Lenny Kravitz doing his work out in true rock and roll style!”
Even with all his experience, The Final Table was an intense endeavour. “I mean, I could cook very well, but when you’re cooking on a stage in a kitchen you’re not used to, surrounded by 20 cameras and an audience of 200 people, that changes the dynamic by a lot. It was so much more than just the cooking, and that was a little bit frustrating at times, but we couldn’t let it show, we had to stay as calm and collected as possible,” Shane chuckles. “I just wanted to make sure I could perform my best, which I did most of the time.” A highlight was ‘French’ week, when he produced Lièvre à La Royale, a dish that normally takes two days to prepare, in just 90 minutes. “I knew as soon as I tasted it, I was like, ‘fuck yeah! ‘We’ve smoked these guys out of the water.’ It was a real triumph moment!”
Having loved working with Mark, Shane hints at a future pop-up collaboration with his TV partner in crime. On top of that, he is soon to open a new, “casual day dining” restaurant, Cornerstone, in Central this April. “Something small, like a neighbourhood next-door restaurant, along the same lines of what we do at Arcane, but more approachable,” he says. “As a chef, you’re constantly thinking about the next dish, the next menu and what we can offer to our customers. The creative process doesn’t stop.” And from that, his endless satisfied diners around the world only stand to benefit.