BAO BAO brings authentic Taiwanese food to your doorstep without incurring the air miles. Juin-Wei Huang, the founder of BAO BAO invites you to come by their restaurant in East Croydon, London to be transported to the streets of Taiwan – a place renowned for the best street food markets in the world.
The East Croydon restaurant is their first restaurant of which they hope there to be many more in the future. Juin-Wei and his team are driven by their passion for food and would like to show everyone the beauty of Taiwanese Street Food.
“Food counts. Food delivers an experience like no other, and food provides a great way for people to learn about new cultures and explore,” says Juin-Wei.
From their pork bao to delicious beef soup to boba milk tea, BAO BAO wants to tantalise your taste buds and make their restaurant the trendiest place to eat and be seen at, and at a price that will not leave your eyes watering.
Honest Food Talks interviewed Juin-Wei to learn more about his story and how his deep-rooted passion for food came to be.
Where did the idea for BAO BAO come from?
I picked up cooking as my hobby since I was a young child.
Seeing people enjoying my food is very satisfying. Opening a small restaurant to cook my favourite dishes and make friends with my customers were always my dream career since my college time.
People say that you could learn about a place and the people living there from the local cuisine. I want to show more people about my hometown Taiwan, by providing them Taiwanese food (with my own twists).
I hope I can bring my customers some good Taiwanese experience.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
One of the best things I love about my job is that I do not need to keep myself busy, as there is just endless work to do!
I start my morning by accepting deliveries from suppliers as our ingredients are freshly delivered daily. I then continue to do the following.
Making sure the quality of the ingredients is of my desired standard. Checking stock levels. Estimating the consumption level of the day, and organising cooking preparations. Planning the work for the day and communicating with the staff to get everyone ready for the day.
Communication and teamwork are very important in my opinion. A good team spirit will create significant synergies.
Then my favourite part of the day starts, greeting my customers!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive?
As mentioned above, communication is the key to keep the team and yourself productive.
We will make sure everyone in the team is aware of what is going on, small or big. We leave notes all the time for other team members so that everyone is responsible for everything, and no one is pushing the responsibility to others.
Personally, I like to watch food-related movies and documentaries. I also like to visit new restaurants to learn new recipes and new ways of doing things and even discover new appliances which may assist my job better.
Our industry is all about the people. So, we need to keep up with the latest trend so we can serve our people better and better.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would say, be yourself and follow your heart.
Cooking food and opening a restaurant was always my dream career, but this was not approved by my parents when I was young.
My parents wanted me to become a doctor, a lawyer or a banker. One of those respectful professionals. It made me feel that I was wrong to like cooking. I was confused, unhappy and wasted time on becoming one of them for a very long time.
Until one day, I realised that I should be the one who is responsible for my life and I would only be successful if I followed my heart.
I had a very deep talk with my parents, and they accepted and became supportive. Since then, everything turned out alright. Even the sky became bluer.
What is the one thing you do over and over again and recommend everyone else do?
I have learnt this not so long ago and I found it very powerful. It is meditation.
We are living in a modern world. Life gets busier and busier, time passed faster and faster. It is all because of the fast-developing technology. We get bombed by excess information from everywhere.
Our brain needs time and energy to take and process all the information. It is so easy for us to feel tired and confused.
Meditation will help us to clear our head, recharge our brain energy, and focus on the things which are matter to us.
Give it a try. It does not need to take so long. Just 10 to 15 minutes every day is enough. You will feel the difference in a couple of weeks.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I would say focusing on people. Our industry is all about people.
Feeding people, meeting people, talking to people. The better you understand your customer, the easier your business will become.
What's one trend in the F&B industry that excites you?
It is really difficult to find a positive trend currently during this pandemic. If I have to find one, it will be people’s desire for interaction with each other.
We have all been locked up at home for too long. People are all counting down on going back to our normal happy life, when we can eat out at one of our favourite restaurants, and have a few drinks while watching games in a local pub.
I feel so excited and look forward to it.
What is the best £20 you recently spent? What and why?
Gail’s bread! Their Honey, Almond & Walnut Sourdough is amazing!
Since the lockdown, their bread has played a big role in my breakfasts.
What is your favourite quote?
Practice makes perfect. Old but classic.
Do not give it up just because you did not make it right the first time. Trust me, the more you try, the better you will make it.
The thing that stops you is not how difficult it is, but how much you love it.
What are some of your favourite places to eat at?
Cay Tre Hoxton is my all-time favourite when I crave some Vietnamese Pho. Mailinda in Isle of Dogs where authentic Chinese Sichuan cuisine is served. Roti King in King’s Cross, as they have the best Roti I have ever had.
I like visiting small eateries that are outside the “go-to” places. I like seeking pearls hidden in the sands.
What's the best thing to order from BAO BAO?
I would say Beef noodle soup. We use locally sourced beef marrow bone, beef shin together with Taiwanese seasoning to stew the broth for at least a day.
That was why we had to say “no” when some of our customers wanted to order 8 bowls in one go. We do not normally prepare too much, and we have to make sure we have some available for other customers.
Are there any exciting plans coming from BAO BAO soon?
BAO BAO will be 5 years old this November. We are looking to expand once the pandemic is under control a bit more.
Currently, we are mainly focusing south of the river, but we are not yet sure where exactly to expand to. We are open to suggestions, so please feel free to let us know where next you would like to see us!
BAO BAO invites you to explore the world of Taiwanese food and enjoy a cocktail or two along the way.
We plan to bring the streets of Taiwan to those of London, creating the best dishes that are tasty and yummy, and making you want to come back for more.
With top-quality ingredients, talented chefs, and a good range of drinks – we’re here so that you can have a great time.