Chong Kin-wo, the “Dumpling Queen” who started selling snacks at a Hong Kong ferry pier about 40 years ago and eventually built up the internationally famous food brand Wanchai Ferry, has died. She was 75.
“We are deeply saddened by confirming the news of Madam Chong, the founder of Wanchai Ferry passing,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday. “All related info will be announced soon.”
The businesswoman was believed to have been diabetic.
Born in 1943 in the port city of Qingdao, Shandong province, Chong, who at the time spoke neither Cantonese nor English, moved to Hong Kong in 1978 after separating from her husband.
To make ends meet she began selling Peking dumplings made to a family recipe at the Wan Chai ferry pier.
“My first time out pushing my cart to the Wan Chai ferry pier, that trip felt as long as the Great Wall,” she said in an interview in 2015.
“First, I didn’t know how to get there, so I stumbled along. Second, I felt all eyes were on me. And there seemed to be a voice in my head saying, ‘How did you ever lose your way to get to this point?’”
However, her delicious and high-quality dumplings quickly won the hearts of locals, and the Wanchai Ferry brand was born. Such was her popularity in the area that she became known as “Madam Chong”.
By the 1990s the company had become a major local supplier of dumplings to most supermarkets in the city, and her story was turned into a television drama.
In 1997 she partnered with the American food giant Pillsbury to help grow her business. With Pillsbury, and later General Mills after its billion-dollar acquisition of Pillsbury, Wanchai Ferry grew rapidly, and so did Chong’s reputation.
Hong Kong media dubbed her the “Dumpling Queen”.
Her company’s first plant in mainland China opened in Shanghai in 1998, and four years later Wanchai Ferry Dumplings had reportedly captured more than half of the frozen dumpling sales in southern China.
Simon Wong Ka-wo, chairman of Kampery Group in Hong Kong and also the chairman of the Chamber of Food and Beverage Industry of Hong Kong, remembered Chong as a diligent businesswoman.
“She was dedicated to setting a good food safety system in her operation, which won her company a good reputation,” he said.
Wong added that he last saw Chong about 10 months ago.
“In the past couple of years she had to use a wheelchair and was not as active,” he said.
Chong kept a low profile in recent years and the last time she made the news was in April 2018, when she officiated at a ceremony at Chinese University.
In appreciation of her support, the university named its multi-purpose hall at CW Chu College as Chong Kin Wo Hall.
Additional reporting by Danny Mok
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