Yung Kee founder's son Peter Kam preaches harmony

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 3:46am

While the feud surrounding the Yung Kee restaurant made headlines in recent weeks, the leader of the family's Canada-based branch believes nothing beats harmony among relatives.

Peter Kam Kwan-wah, the eldest son of the late restaurant founder Kam Shui-fai, now lives in Vancouver with the offspring of two of his father's wives.

He flew back to town for a nephew's wedding at the weekend, and yesterday he was joined by about 40 of his extended family members for a special visit to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin.

"It's so realistic, just like the old times," he said at the museum, which had a display of relics from a family restaurant - the grand dining hall of the Diamond Restaurant. Ten years ago, one branch of his family wound down the Diamond Restaurant chain in perfect harmony.

"We have been very close together as a family all along. Even today, we will all fly back to Hong Kong to gather. A family will only prosper if we are all united."

That makes a sharp contrast to the more recent legal skirmishing over control of the family's famous Yung Kee restaurant, between offspring of its founder's third wife, Mak Siu-chun.

Kam Shui-fai had four wives and 18 children. The offspring of his second and fourth wives - the late Mak Yok-jan and the late Ho Suet-ying - live in Canada.

Apart from opening Yung Kee in 1942, Kam Shui-fai also invested in the Diamond Restaurant chain with two other business partners in 1947. During its peak years in the 1950s and 1960s, the restaurant chain had five branches across Hong Kong.

Unlike Yung Kee, the Diamond Restaurant chain targeted the celebrations market. Its lavishly decorated grand halls were popular venues for wedding ceremonies, birthday bashes and family gatherings.

"We had customers who came every day and brought even their children and grandchildren," Peter Kam recalled.

Business declined in the early 1980s, as competition heated up and Hongkongers opted for more Westernised weddings.

Even so, the restaurants hold good memories for some. Today Peter Kam's nephew, Andrew Leung Tze-wung, recalls happy family gatherings for dim sum for over two decades.

"Since I was old enough to remember, the whole family would go 'yum cha' every Sunday with grandpa," Leung said.

After the handover in 1997 many of Peter Kam's brothers and sisters decided to emigrate to Canada.

The last Diamond Restaurant, in Sheung Wan, closed its doors in 2002 but something of its atmosphere lives on at the museum, where curator Jeremy Hui Siu-mui said she was excited to see furnishings had been so well preserved by the family.

"We have had bits and pieces that were able to represent Hong Kong's restaurant scene in that particular era, but nothing so complete and delicate like this," Hui said.