Talking Chinese New Year with Art and Hospitality Entrepreneur Louis Li
Picturesque cakes, larger-than-life sculptures and experiential rain rooms; Melbourne-based entrepreneur Louis Li brings a cinematic edge to all he touches.
Having studied film before pivoting to designing spaces and experiences, Li moves effortlessly between hospitality and art, blurring the lines between the magical and the prosaic.
His opening of Jackalope Hotel in 2017 raised the bar for Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and with the addition of fine-dining restaurant Doot Doot Doot and cellar door Rare Hare, Li has helped to put the wine region back on the map for connoisseurs.
In his role as Creative Director at Black Star Pastry, the cult online pastry destination with a new physical address on Driver Lane in Melbourne’s CBD, he’s bringing the Dragon cake to sweet-toothed fanatics everywhere and embracing a blend of Australian and Chinese culture in culinary art form.
To hear how Li will celebrate Chinese New Year, Robb Report ANZ sat down over coffee to get his take on celebrating with life’s little luxuries.
“This year, I will be spending CNY in Sydney, hosting a dinner with family and close friends,” says the softly-spoken, 36-year-old entrepreneur. “In the lead-up to the date I usually visit the temples to pay my respects, to reflect on my achievements of the past year, and look towards the year ahead. To celebrate, I enjoy purchasing CNY gifts for family and friends, it’s one of my favourite things to do.”
When in Sydney, the 36-year-old aesthete plans to catch up with friends and spend time on the water.
“A brunch with friends in Surry Hills to start the day,” he explains, “followed by a cruise on Sydney Harbour and to conclude the celebrations, a banquet dinner with family followed by many games of Mahjong.”
Li says he will be gifting Maotai, the festive liquor popular for its “floral and smoky notes that pair so well with Chinese dishes” and pouring “red wine—in particular, a fine French Burgundy”.
He is also partial to a glass of whisky. “I love single-malt whisky,” he says, “in particular the mizunara oak flavour profile that comes through in Yamazaki.”
He wants for nothing, but says he has his eye on an armchair that straddles the line between artwork and object: the “How High the Moon” armchair by Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata.
“I like the juxtaposition of this piece; it is extremely sound but visually quite fragile,” he says. “The moon shape profile is very industrial yet poetic.”
When he returns to Melbourne he’ll meet with friends at go-to restaurants like Gimlet and Supernormal, and of course Jackalope’s restaurants, Doot Doot Doot and Rare Hare. Not surprisingly, when it comes to buying sweet treats the Black Star Creative Director is set.
“I will be heading to Black Star Pastry where our team and I have worked together on enhancing our signature Dragon Cake for this year’s celebrations. The cake looks spectacular, the ingredients and design represent the Dragon beautifully.”
A celebration of the Chinese New Year, it’s formed of layers of pink and white dragonfruit, sponge, pineapple and vanilla cream, pomegranate jelly ripples, and a biscuit crumb base. It’s a symbol of prosperity, authority, and good fortune in line with the Chinese Zodiac and the four-portion creation (pictured below) is topped with iridescent dragonfruit ‘clouds’.
The ultimate luxury for Li, he explains, is not an animate object but ineffable time.
“Time is a luxury for me — to be able to have full control of my time is very precious.”
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