An updated hot pot and classic Chinese with an elegant twist, Vivien Shek is a restaurateur giving diners what they want.
As a successful entrepreneur who is your inspiration?
I think it started when I was young. The first person would be Robert Kiyosaki, an American businessman and investor.
My dad used to give me a lot of his books to read, because it was always my dream to become a businesswoman, since I was 15. At a later age, another person that inspired me a lot was Alan Yau. He was born and raised in Hong Kong but moved to England to build his business empire.
I have been to all his restaurants, like Park Chinois, The Duck and Rice, Hakkasan. I like his attention to detail, and find him very inspiring. Another person would be Jennifer Liu. She is a businesswoman, who started Habitu. Five years ago, when I first came back from Australia, and even before I started getting into food and beverage, I read about her in magazines.
Lai Bun Fu and The Drunken Pot both seem to be doing well. Did you study catering in college?
I didn’t study food and beverage in college. I did finance and marketing as my major. In my first year I was doing design. I did a one-year design course, but my dad didn’t really like it because he thought it was a very difficult, niche industry. I was doing well, but changed to finance and marketing. I’m glad that I did that because it helped me understand the world more, especially for what I do now. I did a lot of different types of start-ups after I graduated. I like challenges, but I always had a passion for food. That’s why I want to be able to create a great concept, a good restaurant to make people happy and to put a smile on our customers’ faces. My company’s name is Sonrisa or smile in Spanish.
Is there a restaurant in the world you’ve walked into that absolutely knocked you dead?
I think there’s a lot of great concepts out there. Lately the trend is all about casual, fun dining. People enjoy their dining experience because it is fun, and overlook the fact that the food or presentation is not the best. I have recently been to The Duck and Rice in London. The ambience is good, but I don’t want to comment on the food. It is a fun concept, though. I really like Vea.
Are you a fan of cooking? What are some of your favourite dishes?
I used to cook a lot, but not anymore because I have been quite busy. In my free time I like to go out and get more inspiration from other restaurants. My favourite dish used to be strawberry ribs because people always like it. It is traditional, but instead of just pineapples, I also add strawberries. That’s why we have strawberry ribs on the menu at Lai Bun Fu.
What made you want to partner with Chef Chung Kin Leung?
Before I met Chef Chung, I was very close to starting my dessert house. I had the whole proposal ready, friends as silent partners, and then I met Chef Chung. My friend recommended that he come to my house to do catering one night. He came with just two trolleys and in 30 to 45 minutes whipped up a 10-course meal. It was a one-man show and I was so impressed.
What is the story behind The Drunken Pot?
Drunken Pot is about casual, fun dining. I noticed the majority of hot pot places in Hong Kong were a bit too casual. Have you noticed Hong Kong people enjoy buffet the most? They just love variety. This is why I created the five-column hot pot. Usually at hot pot restaurants, you can only choose from two columns, but at The Drunken Pot, diners can choose from five different soup bases. I also like to combine cocktails and hot pot, because why not?
What has surprised you most about the reaction since you’ve opened, both positive and negative?
For The Drunken Pot, I didn’t expect too much because I had a lot of very experienced people in the industry tell me my location was not good enough and there were uncertainties about my hot pot restaurant concept. But I tried my best, and it turned out okay. I feel very blessed.