51-Year-Old Dim Sum Chef Wakes Up at 1 a.m. to Serve Hungry Customers
The owner of Sun Hing Restaurant in Smithfield Road, Kennedy Town, Hong Kong has dedicated over 30 years of his adult life to making dim sum for loyal customers.
Chui Kwok-hing learned the craft of making dim sum from his father, Chui Hoi, who started the family business in the 1960s.
He then started working as an apprentice for his father by doing small tasks, and eventually moving up the ladder over the years, he told South China Morning Post.
However, after the building the family used for their business was demolished, they all relocated to Western District on Hong Kong Island in the 1980s.
“Although we open for business at 3am, people will come to our restaurant as early as 2:30 a.m.,” he recalled. “So, it’s actually quite an intense and demanding job.”
“I wake up at 1am every day, which is very tiring,” he said. “But I always force myself get up then because of the regular customers. I know they’ll always start gathering outside the restaurant soon after I arrive at work, waiting for our dim sum.”
Chui’s usual customers consist of students from the University of Hong Kong, taxi drivers just getting off their night shift, and partygoers who still want to hang out and get some grub.
The 51-year-old is always the first one to come into the restaurant, which is only a five-minute walk from his house, at around 1:30 in the morning. He prepares everything needed to make dim sum before the rest of his staff arrives for work.
“My colleagues will arrive at the restaurant at 2am, and I’m responsible for making sure everything in the kitchen is ready for them,” he said. “At around 5am, I’ll some buns or dim sum to have a quick breakfast. We’ll spend about five to 10 minutes to eat and then go back to work immediately.”
Chui manages the whole place, but his 84-year-old father is still involved with the family business.
“He still insists on working every day from 3am, which I find really impressive,” Chui said about his father, who “loves to chat with customers and meet his friends every day.”
“He usually works as the cashier, looks out for the employees and gets off work at around 11am – then comes back the next day.”
Sun Hing Restaurant has also seen its fair share of local celebrities who get their pictures taken and hanged on the wall.
The customer base has grown over the years and tourists from other countries flock to the restaurant for some dim sum.
“Our customers now include lots of tourists, such as mainland Chinese, Americans, Koreans and Japanese,” Chui said. “There are many new, fashionable dim sum restaurants in Sai Wan nowadays and, of course, customers will compare our food to theirs. But I am glad people say they find a sense of nostalgia when eating our traditional-style dim sum, and we always make sure we keep up the quality of our food.”
Sun Hing has been on a path to success, but Chui admits that he still does not know who will replace him once he can no longer work.
The 51-year-old restaurant owner has no children of his own, and he is having a hard time looking for someone to take over the business.
“Young people now are unwilling – and not as perseverant – about taking up this kind of job, which requires them to start work in the middle of the night,” he said. “All we can do is to try our best to continue in the industry and keep working.”