MACAU: Movie star, singer-songwriter, travelogue host, entrepreneur – Hong Kong celebrity Nicholas Tse has done it all.
These days, he is busy with his TV programme Chef Nic, a Chinese food travelogue in which he travels the world with his showbiz friends looking for culinary inspirations.
He is an avid cook too. On Thursday (Nov 30), he served up the dessert at a gala dinner in Macau where the Michelin guide unveiled its 2018 edition for Hong Kong and Macau.
Alongside six Michelin-starred chefs like Alain Ducasse, Kwong Wai-keung and Hidemichi Seki, Tse presented his creation: Rose petal cream puff with lychee and rose jelly.
This was plated in a performance on stage, complete with dazzling light and sound.
The performance segment, naturally, came easily for Tse, but cooking for 500 people at the event got him a little worried.
The 37-year-old heartthrob told Channel NewsAsia he arrived in Macau four days in advance to practice and on Wednesday, I found him in the kitchen fussing over plating.
“With this many people in the room, it’s going to be very hot, so what we normally do would become very runny,” he explained.
“I’ve also been checking the ventilation, whether or not it would move elements on the plate. With every door that opens, there’s a drag, therefore it might move.”
Early in his career, Tse projected a bad boy image, sporting floppy hair and sunglasses rain or shine. But in the kitchen, he was chatty and animated.
“It seems to me you are having more fun being a celebrity than you ever did,” I suggested.
“You are correct,” said Tse who seemed pleased. “This cooking thing has really opened me up not to be such a worrisome kid.”
Later I joked: “They say the way to a man’s heart goes through his stomach. I suppose you could say that about a woman, but you really don’t look like you needed the help.”
His manager visibly tensed up. Questions about love and relationships were still strictly off limits.
But Tse was more relaxed.
“I started cooking mainly because I was a really isolated kid. I stayed at home in my room and played games all day. I was on really bad terms with my family until I started cooking,” said Tse, steering the conversation towards another direction.
“It became a medium for my mom and I, dad, my sister. Now when I am back to Hong Kong, I’ll cook and they’ll gather around and have food.”
“So now I want to encourage people to do that more,” he added. “In this era, we are all playing with our phones, games and computers, we kind of lose face-to-face connectivity.”
“How long have you been at it?” I asked.
He wouldn’t bring it up, but seven years ago was right about when his marriage to actress Cecilia Cheung ended on fairly contentious terms. He hasn’t spoken about her since.
Pointing at Tse’s newly plated dessert, I asked to taste it.
“Sure, but take the jelly, the puffs are dummies. Let me get you a spoon,” he went around the kitchen looking.
“No no, I don’t need it,” I held the tiny bite in my hand, eager for him to return to the camera before the PR folks would call time.
But it was a sweet gesture, a side of him that’s also seen in Chef Nic which is now in production for Season 4.
In one episode, he took singing duo Twins to Seoul. While the women shopped, Tse stood patiently in the rain holding up three umbrellas.
When asked if he aspires to win a Michelin star one day, Tse said: “No. I don’t plan on opening restaurants because I know with my personality, I’ll stay in the restaurant and lose contact with everyone else.”