By giving a new identity to Cantonese cooking, the founder of Little Bao is redefining what it means to be a restaurateur
May Chow isn't one to conform. Born in Toronto, she got her start in Hong Kong’s food scene when she moved there in 2009, going on to work under the likes of enfant terrible Alvin Leung of Bo Innovation, and skater-turned-chef and fellow Soho House Hong Kong member, Matt Abergel of Yardbird.
In 2012, Chow founded Little Bao on a whim, bringing the miniature gua bao burgers first made famous by Eddie Huang and David Chang over to Hong Kong, with her own Cantonese twist. What started as a food stall exploded in popularity and, just one year later, Little Bao moved to a cosy space in the neighbourhood of Sheung Wan that soon became known for a permanent queue that snaked out the door. Accolades followed: in 2017, Chow was named Best Female Chef by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, which she has used as a platform for LGBTQ+ issues in the restaurant industry.
Just a stone’s throw from Soho House Hong Kong, Chow’s latest venture, Happy Paradise, opened in 2017 as the culmination of her culinary philosophy and identity as a queer restaurateur. Chow’s unique vision extends from reinterpreting Cantonese classics into dishes such as the sourdough egg waffle, pan-fried pig’s brain, and poached yellow-wine chicken, to the soundtrack of 1980s Cantopop and the neon-washed interior inspired by mahjong parlours and cha chaan teng diners alike.
Now a private dining venue, Chow takes us into the kitchen of Happy Paradise as she talks us through how she remade Cantonese cuisine in her own defiant way.
Visit Happy Paradise at happyparadise.hk, UG/F, 52-56 Staunton St, Central, Hong Kong