Crowded house: I was born in 1949 in Hong Kong, the 11th of 13 children. My father had two wives and we all lived in a house on Rednaxela Terrace, in Mid-Levels. My mother was his second wife. My father worked at an auctioneer called Lammert Brothers, where Shanghai Tang used to be on Pedder Street. The economy was not good in the 1950s, but my father managed to find valuable items and sell them at higher prices. He was able to provide for us so that everyone ate two eggs for breakfast each day. Because there were so many people at the table I learned early on to compete to eat – for birthdays or holidays there would be one chicken. We had two maids from Shunde (in Guangdong province) and one cooked very well, making inexpensive dishes like stir-fried bean sprouts with beef. Shock departure: When I was eight years old, my father’s younger brother adopted me. My father’s brother had one son. I had no idea I was being adopted. My mother put my essentials in a basket and we took a tram from Central to North Point, where he lived. During that ride she told me from now on I would live with my uncle, aunt and cousin. It was a shock. My cousin was over 10 years older than me. My uncle was a very tough teacher. If I didn’t study well he would punish me. I wanted to go home and play with my siblings and pets. My mother didn’t have time to watch us so we were more free. At my uncle’s it was just the four of us. I didn’t cry, but I was shocked, living in fear for 10 years. Getting with the program: When I was 18 years old, I started working. In the 1960s, not many people studied in university. I applied to universities overseas to study, and was accepted, but my family couldn’t afford it. My cousin worked at Wheelock and Marden (now Wheelock and Company) as an accountant and he told me the computer department had a job opening. At the time it was rare for a company to have a computer department. The minimum education requirement was Form Seven, but because my cousin introduced me, they let me take the aptitude test. I was accepted. In 1968, my starting salary was HK$525, which was pretty good, and six months later it rose to HK$575. I was a computer programmer and operator, I wrote programs and operated the machine. My uncle trained me to be logical, obedient and efficient so I was twice as fast as everyone else. The computer was as big as a room. We learned machine code where we had to write in numbers to instruct the machine. When I was 19 years old, I was sent to the UK to learn programming; today my 10-year-old grandson, Julian, can do it. Working mum: I got married at 24 to Joe Yiu Kwong-yuen and my daughter, Jenny, was born when I was 27. When my daughter was nearly two years old, I opened a children’s boutique in Central selling European clothes. I brought home a lot of beautiful clothes for her and it was fun, but I didn’t make money. I went back to the IT industry in 1981, when I was 32 years old, and joined Global Sources (at the time Asian Sources, a business-to-business media company) as the systems and programming manager. I worked there for nearly 20 years. At my peak, I was not just responsible for IT, but also circulation, packaging and production. About 300 people worked under me. I was bewildered [...] It wasn’t until the age of 52 that I understood [Pearl Kong Chen’s] cooking Theresa Yiu When I left the company, in 2001, as chief technology officer, my retirement package was about HK$3.2 million. I was 52 years old. I wanted to open a restaurant as my heart was in food, but I thought 52 was too late to open a restaurant and be the chef. So I started writing recipes. Cooking lessons: When I was 19 years old, some co-workers and I learned how to cook Cantonese food at a colleague’s mother’s house, learning two dishes every week for two years, about 200 dishes. One recipe she taught us that I still cook is Portuguese chicken. In 1979, (cookbook author) Pearl Kong Chen and her husband (Chen Tien-chi) came to Hong Kong. He was a visiting professor at Chinese University. My friend suggested I learn from Pearl, so five of us girls trekked to Chinese University every week. In the first lesson she taught three dishes, the first was stir-fried minced dried oyster, using 17 ingredients. I was bewildered. It was so complicated, high-end Cantonese. It wasn’t until the age of 52 that I understood her cooking. Great demands: After I retired I was surprised to hear that Pearl was still in Hong Kong and I showed my recipes to her. I thought I had done a good job but she made so many corrections. She had a column in Eat and Travel Weekly (magazine) for a decade and I helped her prepare the ingredients and write the recipes. She was meticulous. When she said a half teaspoon of salt, she instructed me to use a knife to make it flat to be exactly a half teaspoon. I learned how to be demanding. If I didn’t care about these minor issues, my recipes would not have been something that I’m now proud of. For 10 years I was her closest student. (Chen died in 2014.) Just do something: When I was 60, Pearl called me and said, “Dashijie” – her pet name for me as her eldest student in Hong Kong – “you have to do something.” I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “Just do something!” So I told her about establishing my own brand and converting my recipes for commercial production. By then it was late September 2009 and I started by making three types of Lunar New Year puddings. I was fortunate because in her columns Pearl had written about Dashijie, so people had heard of me. Customers lined up at City’super to buy our puddings. I was in the commercial kitchen working until 3am every day to supervise production. At first I thought I would produce 6,000 puddings; we ended up selling 10,000 the first year. At my peak, I produced 64 products in a year including cookies, noodles, sauces, mooncakes and pickled ginger. Baby come back: In our third year, Maxim’s wanted to invest. They helped us produce the mooncakes and New Year puddings and were pleased with sales. Maxim’s became our second-largest shareholder after me, and after two years, in 2016, they became the majority shareholder. I thought I should have an exit strategy because you either have successors or you sell to someone. So I sold and stayed on as a consultant for two years and then I was supposed to sell the rest of my shares to Maxim’s. But in March 2018, I told my daughter, Jenny, that the Dashijie brand was my baby. Having nurtured it all those years I felt sad to lose it. I asked her whether, if I bought back the shares from Maxim’s, she would help me look after the brand for my grandson. Jenny has no interest in cooking but my grandson, Julian, is a food lover. I started negotiations with Maxim’s and, surprisingly, they let me buy back all the shares. I felt so happy because my baby was back. About a boy: On December 21, 2019, I was diagnosed with stage 1 uterine cancer but the cancer was aggressive. I had a hysterectomy on December 27. I didn’t know my grandson loved me so much until the day when he was with me in hospital. At 5pm, when the nurse came to take me down to the operating theatre, Julian was hysterical. I realised that a few years earlier he had been in a hospital in Malaysia where he saw his paternal grandfather pass away. The nurse allowed him to accompany me to the operating room and then I said goodbye. He stayed in the hospital until 11pm when I finished my operation. When he saw I was OK he was happy and went home. I never knew I had a special place in that little boy’s heart and that’s very touching.