Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chiu Yin Mei (Hong Kong)
Catering Chef, Food and Beverage Public Relations Expert
July 1 – It’s the day of Hong Kong’s reversion to China, which took place in 1997. We would like to introduce you today to a Hong Kong Food and Beverage Public Relations Expert and a Catering Chef who has all along been working as a bridge between Hong Kong and Japan food related industry – Ms. Chiu Yin Mei.
Yin was introduced by Ms. Tomoko Komatsuzaki to us, who promotes Japanese food related items to Asian market. We met with each other near Tokyo Station in February 2016 and we were impressed by how much she has devoted her time and effort in promoting Japanese local food and kitchenware markets to Hong Kong. She has visited many places in Japan in order to try expanding, broadening and introducing local Japanese items to Hong Kong market.
Yin has transformed from working local Hong Kong market to Japanese market. During this interview, we are glad to learn more about why she has expanded her business from Hong Kong to Japan, how and what makes her get involved with Japanese and to learn more about her multiple visits to Japan, and her visits to Japan in the near future.
Photos provided by Chiu Yin Mei
Discovering many more treasures in Japan
I had been doing a broad range of marketing of Japanese products to Hong Kong market. For example, there is shiso (紫蘇, perilla frutescens) which is the specialty of Aichi Prefecture. It is such an exotic and priceless leaf that many people in Hong Kong haven’t heard about it. We would introduce them to how Japanese eat the shiso, from the top of the leaf and discard the rest so I had suggested to Hong Kong food sellers to sell it for two different prices: the top of the leaf would cost more while there would be a lower price for the rest of the leaf. This is just one example of my business in giving advice and promoting local Japanese brands to Hong Kong markets.
I am working as both a Catering Chef and a Marketing/Public Relations/Events Management Consultant. I have promoted Japanese items and products such as food, beverage, Kitchenware, houseware, tableware, etc. to Hong Kong market.
We Hong Kongers are already familiar with many products from Hokkaido. We are familiar with Kumamon, a mascot character of Kumamoto Prefecture, Fukuoka products, Okinawa products, and Kobe Beef. But there are still so many treasures that we have yet to find in Japan. For example, now I’m promoting the agricultural products of Aichi Prefecture, such as shiso that I just told you; tomatoes, eggplants, watermelons to Hong Kong people. I give advice, hold promotions and set up events to attract local people who are involved in food industry.
Starting from 2014, I visited different companies in Japan very frequently. We had meetings with many different industries; talking to investors, marketers, to even local farmers and consumers. As my business is expanding and developing, I will build more connections with more Japanese companies and organizations.
Hong Kong’s food icon
Besides being a chef, I am heavily involved in food and beverage marketing and event management. I have strong connections with hospitality industries such as hotels and restaurants. I also have good connections with consumers. Hence, my advantage is knowing both the trend of food business and what all foodies out there love!
I launched my 1st own business in 2012. I entered the food world as a catering chef and a food advisor. My customers however were more interested in me as a chef not only, because there were not so many female chefs dating back 4 years ago, I had also been studying in Switzerland for 10 years to study German which seldom chefs like me would stay in one place for that long.
At the same time, I was working for food-related industries from countries such as Poland, Italy, and Spain etc. Since I was a chef, I would need a lot of local ingredients from those countries. So I learned about those ingredients whenever I was there. The local Hong Kong companies and media would then ask me for advice in how to use them. They will then get popular once I showed them on TV Shows or magazines. That’s how I started my career as a branding ambassador and advisor.
Compilation of experiences in HK and Europe
Before entering the food business, I was a graphic designer who created branding, such as company logos, business cards and so on. After that, I went to Switzerland and stayed there for 10 years.
While I was in Switzerland, my classmates and neighbors had regular meetings almost every weekend. We talked majorly about food while eating dishes that attendees brought. They came from various countries so we were sharing our food cultures all the time. That experience triggered me to get involved in and in love with the food industry.
After graduating in Switzerland, I went back to Hong Kong and started working in various companies. I had worked in different areas such as sales and marketing, public relations, graphic design and food-related areas. I am especially fond of designing because I think it gives us a taste of beauty which helps me do promotions, raise awareness and attract more customers to our promotions.
Yin works for Panasonic rice cooker commercial as a food stylist.
In the summer of 2014, I was invited to the Food Expo in Hong Kong. I was asked to hold the food show there and talked about “How to be a ‘Party Queen’” – how to prepare dishes for hundreds of people by yourself.
After the demonstration, some people from the organization called “JETRO” (Japan External Trade Organization) came up to me. I got in touch with them and attended their seminars and events in Hong Kong. I built the connections with people from Japanese companies and municipal governments. Eventually JETRO asked me to demonstrate like how you cook Chinese dishes with Japanese ingredients or how you enjoy Chinese meals with sake. That was how and when I started to work for the Japanese food industry.
The reason why I chose to focus my food and beverage business from Japanese products is because Hong Kong people love Japanese food products very much. For example, we buy Japanese radish instead of local radish! Also a lot of people would choose to travel to Japan and the number of travelers is seriously increasing every year. I know many people would go to Japan for short trips, like going there on Friday night then enjoying luxury dinner in Tokyo, and returning home on Sunday night.
So many HIDDEN wonderful things
I’ve visited many major cities in Japan. My most memorable area is Fukui. Actually it’s famous for crabs, but there are so many wonderful things that nobody knows such as washi (和紙, Japanese paper) and stainless steels for tableware. Even German Kitchenware companies visit there to buy their materials. Also there is an umbrella company who exports their products abroad. Its products are sold in Paris and even French performers use its umbrellas to perform at their famous shows/performances in France.
I love going to local small shops and markets. I love to talk to local people. I find enjoyment in learning about their cultures and habits. There are really so many treasures in every place in Japan.
Yin cooked meals with Fukui vegetables and served them to local people. They attended her company’s grand opening in Hong Kong and she met them again in Japan.
Expanding business globally
My company, food allee Gallery, is a small scale company and has 5 employees currently. But, our clients are preeminent companies and organizations in Hong Kong. We are dealing with not only food but also hospitality and tourism. Everyone related to food would come to us and we would do anything that is related to food. We’ve worked hard, like attending so many events and seminars to build networks and going to other countries to learn about differences of cultures and market trends between those countries and Hong Kong.
I’d like our office to be a “Promotional Center”. If you want to know about the latest trend of Hong Kong or Japan food industry, “This is it!” Come to our headquarters!
Now that we’re planning to have our branch in Tokyo, I’d like it to work the same as our HK headquarters. If people from abroad want to know about Japanese food market, please come here! – That’s my upfront goal. I hope to complete it in two years.
My goal is for people all over the world know about food allee Gallery. I would like to have branches worldwide!
What is Japan to you?
Japan is a very organized and systematic country.
Trains come on time and people are well organized and detail-oriented. I like that because those are exactly my working style. The Japanese way of design of food, shops, fashion or ads are all very stylish and I think it’s the result of their characteristics.
Also, Japan is clean everywhere. It’s not because of the government’s effort, but all people’s effort.
I think all of us agree that Japan is a clean, organized, well-mannered and modern country which has so many ideas and innovations. This applies to all areas of business involvement within the country. I learned a lot from them and I surely love this country! It’s amazing!