Ask the Foodie: Brian Goldberg

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 9:08am

Brian Goldberg's story is that of a potential medical student who gave up his chosen field when he realised his heart just wasn't in it.

Instead, Goldberg, now 35, went on to get a bachelor's degree in Chinese studies and a master's degree in Asian studies, writing his thesis on Hong Kong and mainland cinema. To immerse himself in his studies and improve his Putonghua, he spent a year in Beijing when he was 21. It was during that year that he became enamoured of jian bing, the savoury street food crêpes, and his graduate paper was a business plan on setting up a jian bing store in New York, his hometown, although it never came to fruition.

Eighteen months ago, taking a trip to Beijing and eating the snack food brought all those memories and plans flooding back. Feeling that the timing was right, he decided to open Mr Bing, a tiny restaurant at 83 Wellington Street in Central that serves the Beijing crêpes he so loves.

You're holding down a full-time job as an equity sales trader. How do you find the time and energy to take care of business at Mr Bing, too?

It is challenging, but worth it. I enjoy both immensely. Ultimately, it is about having the right people in place at Mr Bing so that the business runs smoothly when I'm not there.

Having an idea for a business is one thing, and realising it is another. What initial preparation was involved?

Entrepreneurs and trailblazers have always been of interest to me, so I had already read quite a few books written by successful ones, such as Starbucks president Howard Schultz. I was also lucky enough to have met some Hong Kong trailblazers, such as [restaurateur and food and beverage consultant] Bridget Chen, who helped in many ways in making Mr Bing a reality. Additionally, I have friends who work in the Hong Kong food and beverage industry who recommended people I should talk to who were all very open and helpful with great advice. Step by step, I met all the people I needed to, from investors to industry experts, and it all just came together. It increasingly felt like the right thing at the right time, and if I didn't act on it, then I would regret it [because] someone else would.

How do you ensure its authenticity?

Research trips to Beijing led Bridget and me to find a master jian bing maker who agreed to share her recipes and secrets. She also came down to help us perfect our recipes and to provide training for the staff. We use traditional ingredients and fillings. I feel we must be getting it right as we have had lines out to the door every day since we opened.

Any expansion plans?

Yes, that has been part of the plan from the beginning, and we are already looking for other Hong Kong locations. Singapore would be next as there is a big street food culture there. We are considering China and have already taken the appropriate trademarking steps to protect the brand. I think it would also do well in the US, in cities such as New York and Boston. Anywhere where there is a large Chinese population or street food culture could work, even London. Maybe even France, as it has an existing crêpe culture.

What are some of your favourite restaurants?

I am addicted to the Korean fried cauliflower at Yardbird; La Creperie, Mana, Wang Fu for the dumplings, and Butao Ramen.