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As part of an ongoing series, Culture Trip Hong Kong brings you interviews with notable chefs and founders of restaurants in Hong Kong, introducing you to some of the region’s most indulgent cuisine. This week we visited Bao Bei, a pan-Asian restaurant and lounge located on Wyndham Street in Central, and spoke to its co-founder Wendy Wong. Describing herself as ‘athletic, self driven, and disciplined,’ Wong tells us the concept behind Bao Bei and how she got into the restaurant business.
The concept of Bao Bei is an ‘East meets West’ lounge and restuarant with Asian elements. For instance, our signature dish ‘braised pork belly risotto’. The risotto is a western food but the braised pork belly is a Taiwanese concept. Others include ‘mapo tofu fries’ or ‘rice cake carbonara,’ where the Shanghai rice cakes are covered with carbonara sauce. Our food is more small plates, allowing people to eat them when they are here late at night. I want to focus on drinks at Bao Bei, so about 70 percent of the menu is drinks and 30 percent is food, and every Tuesday evening we have karaoke night. Our drinks intend to create a familiarity for Hong Kongers, such as our popular ‘childhood memory’ cocktail is a mix of Vitasoy malt with Baileys and rum.
I did not know I would join the food and beverage industry. After I graduated from university in Los Angeles, I came back to Hong Kong and my first job was working in marketing with Oasis Hong Kong Airlines. I stayed there for two years and learned a lot about marketing, after which I left and I helped my family business on the digital marketing side of things. I found out I didn’t like working for others, because it doesn’t give me a real sense of achievement. Hence, I went on to start my own business. Even if I fail or succeed, it’s because of me.
My dad often tells me money is only a by product, passion is what drives you. I must do something passionate in order to be happy. I like eating and I like exercising, and this is why I created Bao Bei, and also a gym called Topfit, which focuses on being premiere and exclusive.
I always say once you start something, you must finish it. For instance, when I registered for the full ironman competition last year, others didn’t believe I could complete the competition, especially since I only had five months to learn how to cycle! However, I like to prove people wrong. During those five months that led up to the competition, I woke up at five AM every morning and exercised, I cycled continuously for seven hours and then ran for two hours. At the end I came 13th in my category, which was a pleasant surprise. In my next ironman competition, I would like to improve and aim to come at least top 10 in my category.
Actually, a lot of people when they know me, because of what I’m doing and that I’m a female, they might find me intimidating. I disagree with this. However, I do find that there are challenges to being a female working in a male dominating food and beverage industry. Sometimes kitchen staff are conservative and might not like to listen to me because I’m a female and they find that I’m not tough enough. Fortunately, my business partner is a male so he manages the operations of the restaurant well!
If you want to start something, you must be willing to take risk. If you encounter an issue, you should think how to turn it into an advantage. I personally find Hong Kong is the most difficult market to start off a business, difficulties being rent is high and the turnover rate for staff is also high. That’s why in Hong Kong only big brands can survive. However, if you can make it in Hong Kong, you can make it anywhere.
BaoBei, B1/F, 75-77 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong,+852 2801 7779