A Starry Night: First Initiative Foundation Gala 2019
Started in 2010, Michelle Ong’s First Initiative Foundation (FIF) gala has grown to become one of the most anticipated events of Hong Kong’s social season, and for good reason. Last year, FIF looked back to the prehistoric past to promote its exclusive charity gala. So naturally, Michelle’s team brought in a 12-metre-long Tyrannosaurus rex fossil to the IFC Mall to raise awareness for the foundation’s mission to promote arts, culture and heritage in Hong Kong.
Now, Michelle is looking to the stars for this year’s charitable evening, which is appropriately themed ‘Stars in Harmony,’ and will have a focus on hope and unity.
The foundation is bringing together some of the city’s leading lights from myriad industries, including philanthropy, hospitality and the arts, for a night to remember on November 10 at the Four Seasons. “There is no doubt that we all need hope and harmony in our lives at this time more than ever,” Michelle tells Tatler Asia. “All aspects of the event speak to the importance of cooperation, peace, unity, understanding and a future filled with light.”
To capture the spirit of the evening, Michelle chose architect-turned-artist Nicholas Cheung to create a shimmering installation called Feathered Ascent, which features a flock of pristine doves made from one of the most reflective materials in the world that will hang over and encircle the Four Seasons’ ballroom. “I got the idea from these seagull mobiles I had hanging on my wall as a child,” Nicholas tells Tatler Asia.
He also reveals his project took three years to create and with the support of FIF and Sinoland, it will be shown at Lee Tung Avenue in November. “Doves symbolise hope. I believe that is a very positive message, and I hope that’s what people can take away from the installation.”
Michelle was captivated by Nicholas’ final product. “It was so visually stunning with an uplifting message that we all needed,” she says. “It’s a fantastic technological installation of moving doves, representing the beauty of peace and harmony.”
To make the gala possible, Michelle recruited an A-list committee to fundraise and promote the evening. Members include Edipresse Media Asia CEO and chairman Michel Lamunière, Peter Cheung and Adrian Cheung. “FIF has contributed so much to the community since it was established, and I hope my involvement can be just as impactful,” says fellow committee member Ming Ho-Tang.
While the foundation’s events are attended by the city’s established social set, member Denise Lo notes that FIF’s mission is universal. “FIF is widely supported by a lot of people with different backgrounds because it engages in a variety of projects that are beneficial to the community,” Denise says. “I have always wanted to play a musical instrument, but didn’t get the opportunity to do it when I was young. I hope to help others achieve this dream and am honoured to be part of FIF.”
Philanthropist Vena Cheng echoed similar sentiments. “FIF provides a platform of opportunities for students and young artists to be mentored by first class international performers,” says Vena, who’s also a committee member. “Previous galas have always brought stimulation to our palates ... I’m very much looking forward to this year’s surprises.”
This year’s culinary team is equally impressive. In keeping with FIF’s harmonious theme, Michelle recruited some of the city’s top chefs from various cuisines to create a diverse and sumptuous five-course meal. Among the culinary stars are Kenichi Fujimoto of Sushi Saito Hong Kong, Hidemichi Seki of Tenku RyuGin, Lung King Heen’s Chan Yan-tak, Caprice’s Guillaume Galliot and Hideaki Sato of Ta Vie. “Anyone who knows me understands I am a foodie,” Michelle says. “I appreciate the skill and art in every cuisine and have many chef friends whose culinary talents I admire.”
Preparing a gala-worthy meal for 450 guests had its share of challenges. “I usually work with the chefs at multiple tastings, individually and together,” Michelle says. “They suggest some of their speciality dishes, which they think would work best, and then together we tweak and taste until we are all happy with the menu.”
Culinary offerings include salmon roe, hairy crab and sea urchin served in a martini glasses and created by Chef Fujimoto; Chef Tak’s deep-fried Japanese pork coated in salty egg yolk; mushroom soup with lobster topped with Chinese celery foam prepared by Chef Sato and a crispy amadai from Chef Seki. The dinner will be capped off with a decadent tea tower featuring desserts made by each chef, served in a birdcage.
“Each chef has their own speciality, and we hope diners will enjoy the innovative dishes we put together for them at the gala,” says Chef Galliot. “I am humbled to play a part in this meaningful event.”
All of these components, Michelle hopes, will provide guests with a feast for the senses, as a token of gratitude for their charitable efforts. “We have many wonderful elements at the star-powered evening including a brilliant art piece, musical performances by singer Leah Dou, piano prodigy and Friend of FIF Niu Niu and FIF Young Talent singer Gin Lee, a multi Michelin-star meal and a charitable auction,” Michelle says. “I hope everyone feels uplifted, hopeful and connected for good.”