Is it a big responsibility to run a restaurant that's such a Hong Kong institution? 'I don't feel too much pressure, but pressure is not a bad thing - without it you don't progress. Hong Kong's food industry is very competitive. For a restaurant such as Yung Kee, which has been running for 66 years, it's important to keep up with trends. But the key to Yung Kee's continued success is the stable quality of our food, our staff and our service.'
How does Yung Kee control the quality of its roasted geese? 'Using high-quality ingredients is most important. We still use charcoal to roast the goose. It's not like using electric baking ovens, where you can set a time and leave. For charcoal roasting, the time varies depending on the size of the bird. The roast geese we sell are all freshly cooked.'
How can Yung Kee satisfy both new and old customers? 'For an old restaurant such as ours, which almost has iconic status, the key is to improve over time and maintain our traditions. There must be something worthwhile about age-old traditions for them to survive over such a long time. But still, we can't fall behind: we update the interior of our restaurant, kitchen appliances and tableware. To satisfy new demands, we also come up with new dishes. Now, healthy nutritious food is really popular, so we're focusing on developing dishes using mushrooms.'
How do you roast your geese? 'To make sure the meat is tender and the skin is crispy, we use only black-maned geese that weigh about 2.5kg each. Then we rub our signature paste over the goose before hanging it in a charcoal roasting oven for about 45 minutes. An oven can hold 12 geese at a time. We sell about 300 every day.'
What's your favourite part of a goose? 'The skin between the neck and breast; it's the smoothest and most savoury part. Everyone has different tastes. Young people and women may prefer goose breast or the leg because they have less fat. The back tastes good with wine.'
What qualifies you to run the restaurant? 'I used to be a chef but not any more. If I stayed in the kitchen, I wouldn't know how to run the business. But that experience was really helpful - I'm familiar with the ingredients in our dishes and I know how to change the menus for different seasons.'
Why do you eat with your staff every day? 'Our management style is traditional. When it comes to dealing with people, communication is vital. Our staff is like family. Our oldest staff member has been with us for 62 years and is now in his 80s. He can't handle heavy work now, but his experience is invaluable.'
Why don't you open more branches? 'We prefer a more direct and simple structure of management; it's easier to control quality and train employees. We may earn more money if we opened more branches, but the management wouldn't be as efficient.'