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Chatting With Russell Doctrove of Patty Boi, the Chef Who Brought Jamaican Patties to Hong Kong
by: Rubin Verebes
March 31, 2022
Every Thursday at 11 AM, Russell Doctrove fits out a crew of courier cars to deliver hundreds of Jamaican patties across the city to hungry foodies eager for a taste of the Caribbean.
At the end of each week, Russell’s branded Patty Boi hand-crafted boxes find themselves plastered all over Instagram, with fans in awe of four home-made golden Jamaican patty, with a flaky shell and savoury insides.
The undertaking of supplying Hong Kong with the Caribbean pastry is the Dominican-Hong Kong chef’s passion project to import a little bit of Jamaica to Hong Kong.
“Jamaican food is definitely an underrepresented cuisine in Hong Kong, and in the past, it has been amateurish. We have not done it justice,” Russell tells The Beat Asia in a phone interview.
The Caribbean cuisine has always lacked proper representation here. Growing up in Hong Kong, Russell has always possessed an intrigue to his father’s life in Dominica. The beach and Caribbean culture and sun and sea life have always existed close to his heart.
Founding Patty Boi in June 2021 was a no-brainer for the F&B guru. Now, Hong Kong is going patty-crazy for his recipes.
Until the end of 2019, Russell was the executive chef of Maximal Concepts restaurant group, creating the food for venues Brickhouse, Limewood, Sip Som, and Blue Butcher.
“When I left [in 2019], I was working on trying to get my own restaurant concept off the ground. A late-night dining concept that brought together my love of food, music, and DJing. The cuisine was always going to be Caribbean-inspired but using Southeast Asian ingredients.”
Russell ran two pop-ups selling Jamaican fare in 2020 for a “more comprehensive restaurant concept” he was working on. As part of the four -course menu, a Jamaican patty side -dish featured prominently. “It was the most talked-about dish with everyone saying I should open up a patty shop.”
“At the time, I was kind of quite reluctant to do it. I have been focused on this restaurant concept for like the last 10 to 12 years. I did not really want to just focus on doing patties. But I guess with the [COVID-19] situation and the restrictions, my business partner and I decided to sort of pivot and see if we could just come up with a brand around the patties. And that's how Patty Boi was born.”
In the summer of 2021, he and his business partner ran two pop-ups at Soho’s Hatch, exclusively selling the patty until stock ran out.
“The feedback from the pop-ups [at Hatch] was really positive. The first pop-up [attracted] a lot of my friends and people that I knew. And then the second one we had line of 50 people stretched down the block. It was like loads of people that I did not know, and it showed us that there was a demand for [our patties]. Our branding was working.”
Business boomed and traction grew. The pair pivoted to selling the “magic, sweet-spot number” of four patties in a curated box hand-delivered to anyone in Hong Kong. With the motivation of the pop-up success, Russell launched Patty Boi in June 2021 to fans eager to try the Jamaican treat.
Russell began tweaking his recipes, creating snappy patties such as the minced beef-signature Island Kush, toasted coconut and chilli Jungle Spice, slow-cooked Karana jackfruit Jack Herer, Thai-inspired Holy Grail, and green matcha custard-filled Green Genie.
“The pastry dough stays the same [with each patty], but each savoury option is different with a secret blend of different spices. The recipes involve Southeast Asian ingredients and the punchy flavours that you can find in Asian cuisine. It is quite easy coming up with different flavours.”
“We wanted to take inspiration from fast food restaurants, the Big Mac, Burger King, and McDonald's, with all their products created the same, with a few different variations. [Our patties] have their own name and their own identity. We need to give each [patty] with its own personality.”
He worked with a designer to create an aesthetic for the delivery boxes and perfect the packaging, designed for a home experience. “We wanted to create a hype around securing the box of patties, rather than a single.”
When Russell and his partner launched the online store in July 2021, sales increased slowly. As city-wide restrictions on dining were introduced in January 2022, his delivery sales shot up. “Now we make between [HK$9,000] and HK$10,000 just in a day, just on deliveries.”
“I think the fact that we made that pivot from doing pop- ups to just online service gave us a little bit of a head start, provided we can always get the courier company to deliver the patties.”
Apart from selling the infamous patties, Russell has added items to the online Patty Boi store that are strictly patty-related, including an Island Sauce (HK$125), stickers, and books on Jamaican culture. The chef says he has plans to create a “unique” line of merchandise for the brand.
“We are looking now to launch frozen patties in our collection, something that a lot of people have been asking for. We will be looking to reach out to investors soon to begin our own production kitchen space.”
For the future, Russell hopes to carve a new space in Hong Kong for a retail shop, inspired by Japanese bakeries “where you can see the patties baked,” to create “a full 360-degrees Patty Boi experience inside the shop.”
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