TINA LI & YE SHAO

Dainty Sichuan, Melbourne

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - 2019 Australian Restaurant Guide -

Though they now run an em­pire of more than a dozen eater­ies in two cities, it wasn’t al­ways a given that Tina Li and Ye Shao would be­come restau­ra­teurs. Li worked at a laun­dry fac­tory while Shao ran a Chi­nese-medicine clinic. When they met she was struck by his con­sci­en­tious treat­ment of an acupunc­ture pa­tient – a good sign, she thought, for a fu­ture busi­ness part­ner. For Shao, Li’s ta­lent was clear. “One day, I went to Tina’s home for a din­ner, her ex­pe­ri­enced cook­ing im­pressed me very much.” She has since trans­lated her kitchen skills be­yond din­ner for two: the pair cur­rently run 16 restau­rants, most of them in Melbourne, and six un­der the Dainty Sichuan brand that made their names. For the first two-and-a-half years, they didn’t take a sin­gle day off. And they still put in the hours. “Most days, we go to sleep 2am to 3am,” Shao says.

While Li is in charge of dish de­vel­op­ment and train­ing staff, Shao mainly looks af­ter mar­ket­ing and edit­ing menus. Li of­ten goes to China for re­search, “then I come back to Melbourne and ad­just it to suit the Aus­tralian cus­tomers”.

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