THE CHEF, RESTAURATEUR AND TV PRESENTER DESCRIBES HOW HER CHILDHOOD PASSION FOR UNUSUAL INGREDIENTS AND EXOTIC RECIPES SHAPED HER CULINARY OUTLOOK
Margaret Xu was flicking through one of her father’s magazines when she was just 12 and came across a recipe for the Russian soup bortsch. Intrigued, she slipped out to the local wet market, bought the ingredients and made it for her parents. Inspired by the glowing response she received, she started experimenting, subscribing to international magazines and buying cookery books so she could make Western recipes with intriguing names such as caesar salad and pavlova.
“I quickly realised what an innately human activity cooking is. So when I was 16 and my friend told me she was getting married, I offered to cater for the 40 guests on my own—no mean feat when you have no professional training.” Xu’s family was stunned by her success that night and subsequently offered to pay for her to attend a culinary school overseas. However, despite the pull the kitchen had always exerted, Xu decided to stay in Hong Kong and study design and communications instead.
“We weren’t from a rich family and I never thought I could own a restaurant of my own, so I decided to try advertising, a career I thought I could succeed in. But I was always drawn to the projects marketing food, so 10 years ago I started selling takeaways in a design shop. Soon people were queuing around the block and at that point a restaurant seemed inevitable.”
That restaurant, Yin Yang, was in Wan Chai, and it continues to flourish after moving to the beach at Ting Kau, near Tsuen Wan. “I love my job and I’m there for every service. I think it’s important to inspire people to try unusual Cantonese cooking and taste the organic vegetables from my farm. So the items I chose to represent me are cookbooks, recipes and pretty biscuit makers from my childhood, because I have learnt that youthful passions tell you so much about who you are.”