Seven years ago, Hannah Cheng decided to give up her financial career dumpling restaurant In New York with his sister, Marian. “We named our mother Mimi Cheng,” she says. “He thought it was a very bad name and we should call it a ‘great Dumpling House.’
When did you start thinking about opening a restaurant?
My mother has made Taiwan dumplings for us since we were little. Even when we were in college, he would drop dumplings and his sauce in hidden refrigerators. Our roommates were always very excited. When I lived in an apartment for about twenty years, and I was disgusted with the food choices in the middle, I would bring dumplings to work for lunch. People always asked me to bring extra. Then my parents moved from the east coast to the west coast. Our dumpling supply was depleted. So my sister and I, with no restaurant experience, decided it would be a good idea to sign a 10-year restaurant lease.
Did you quit your financial job right away?
No, I worked on the negotiation floor for another two years. I did both.
Any deplorable initial moments?
Too much to tell. Friends told me that one day I would have to write a book, but it’s still early!
Tell us about the opening day.
We were written in In the New York Times on the eve. Then when we opened it in the morning, there were 500 people lined up outside the door. We didn’t have enough prepared food; we had to keep closing during the day to catch up. I went home and slept crying. Having a restaurant was not like I imagined. Everything I could imagine was only for the next 10 years, with the vegetables being cooked until 3 in the morning in a state of constant panic.
How did you prevent that from happening?
We hired so many people to open it, but no one knew what they were doing. We hired them because they had a good attitude and were friendly. My next neighbor – the owner of Bar Veloce – called and said, you have too many people. You think you’ll do better with fewer people. He was right. Sometimes you want to throw more problems at people, but it doesn’t solve the root of the problem: What really holds us back? Didn’t we ask for enough ingredients? Is our equipment not efficient enough? We always try to improve every day, even seven years later.
What do you think makes a great dumpling?
You need to use the best ingredients. Then you don’t have to cover them with salt or spices.
And your mother gave you her recipe, right?
Well, for many years, we had a joke that he would never share the recipe with us, because it was his way of making sure we could call and come home. Three weeks before the restaurant opened, I called him to call the recipe, and he was on the verge of boarding a flight. And I said, ‘Mom, it’s no longer fun, we’ll open it in three weeks’. And he sighed and said, “Okay, okay,” and he listed the ingredients without making any measurements. A typical family recipe!
What was his secret?
It’s weird because people will often ask, what’s in the secret sauce? And tell me, my dad doesn’t even know the recipe, so try it nice.
Tell us about some of the fun features you’ve made.
Last month a hot fried chicken from Nashville was made with the sauce from the home ranch. It was amazing. One of our most popular is our cheese burger dumpling, in partnership Pizza loves Emily. A special chicken pie is also popular. Basically we try to turn everything we like to eat into dumpling.
On a more serious note, how have you felt in the last two years – with the pandemic and hate crimes against the Asian community?
We felt that the anti-Asian sentiment had increased significantly since February 2020. Our business went down significantly. We started to get a lot of opinions against Asian workers because Asian workers are unhealthy. The reviews were false because the details provided did not match our restaurants, which made me sad. Our team was terrified of coming to work. We bought pepper sprays for our teammates who were on the subway, changed the schedule so people could get home much earlier, and funded Uber rides for a while. We go beyond health requirements because the community’s barrier to feeling comfortable dining in our establishment is much greater.
That is very difficult. You also delivered dumplings to people who needed them.
In March 2020, one of the long-time employees told us that her mother, a hospital nurse, was a nurse who had been fighting for hours without access to any food other than an automatic machine. We felt a moral obligation to support the brave staff of the hospital. We started with one GoFundMe, Which caught the attention of Verizon. Then Verizon, Food1st, and Rethink partnered with us to provide healthy meals to first-time employees and seniors who were at risk.
When you have time to take care of yourself, how do you relax? What is the bedtime habit?
I should be lying and not on the phone! But I usually find the ends of the internet on my phone. It takes me to Zillow. We don’t move, but I like to see houses all over the country.
Your mother, of course, has a big impact on you and your sister. What did she teach you about beauty?
When we were in middle school, he told us to wear eye cream and sunscreen. I always put sunscreen on my hands. Especially when you’re driving, you don’t realize how much sun is on your hands.
What eye cream and sunscreen do you use?
Supergoop Superscreen – It’s clean and doesn’t leave that weird thick white film on your face. And Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream, Which I found on TikTok! The price point is reasonable, and it makes a big difference.
What about the moisturizing body?
For my body, Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Lotion it makes my skin feel very smooth and smooth. I love it too Palmer’s Cocoa Butter – You don’t have to put it on like every hour, and Elmer’s glue stick looks like a big, nostalgic stick.
Do you wear makeup?
I don’t know how to do makeup well, but I swear by three things: concealer, redness, and mask. For the mask, I only use Sephora samples. And a friend of mine told me about the Westman Atelier pure beauty brand; their concealer and blush they are creamy and blend very well. Blush instantly changes your look, and I love that.
What about the lips?
If you want to know what you’re doing, go look for the red lip. There is a clean lip mark I love: Bite. They ALWAYS last. I’ve never had to ask again, no matter what I ate and drank.
Are you a bath or shower person?
Shower. In the shower, we always have fresh flowers or eucalyptus, which are very aromatic in the steam. I think it’s important for the little rituals in your life to be special. I cut more flower stalks from a bouquet and put them in the shower. It’s very simple.
How to take care of your hair?
I have Christoph Robin salt bushes that my friends swear; I use it once a week when I want that clean, clean feeling. Otherwise, I do the shampoo Andalusian From Whole Foods. Then I run my fingers through my hair. When I wash my hair with a brush, my hair becomes very chubby.
What else does it make you feel in your life?
I’m trying to learn to play again. As children, it brings us joy. And as we age, it absorbs us by focusing on work. So I’ve been training here Five Points Academy Muay Thai teacher – it’s Thai kickboxing. It’s intense and it forces you to be there. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll get kicked.
Do you leave the class high?
Yes, I feel very strong. I tell my teacher what I like most about the week. He says, no pressure!
What makes you proud?
I am proud of failing and learning from my failures. That way of thinking I owe my mother. Every time I made a serious mistake in growing up, he would say, “It was a very good lesson.” You only fail if you take something away from the experience. I am proud of my curiosity and desire to live. I’m proud of how far I’ve come in being a better manager. When I see my team grow, I feel very proud to have a small part of that story.
Thank you, Hannah! You are the best.
(Photo of the sister restaurant Paris toribio. Portraits of other sisters Nicole Franzen. Wedding photo Eva Lin Photography. First dumpling photo Golden belly. Hot chicken dumpling Mike Chau. Through family photos and casual photos Hannah’s Instagram.)
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