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To mainland, with a taste of Hong Kong

Guangzhou restaurant serves up fresh opportunities for returnee from HK

In this undated photo, Cheung Man reflects after a hard day's work at his restaurant. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Cheung Man worked as a page designer for Takungpao, one of the oldest Chinese language newspapers in Hong Kong. He returned to the mainland last year, taking with him culinary delights he had savored for 20 long years.

Cheung, who grew up in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, was 29 years old when he moved to Hong Kong for work. It was all good going till the novel coronavirus broke out last year. After that the economy there began slowing down. "I was confused about my future there," said 51-year-old Cheung. "It made no sense to stay on."

So he quit his job and returned to the mainland in September 2020, and set up his own restaurant, called Hong Kong Station, in Guangzhou's Zengcheng district. It opened up fully to guests in May this year. It has a cafe as well as dining services.

Two sets of clients

Cheung loves to cook and his restaurant offers everyone a taste of Hong Kong. In fact, he has two sets of clients-those who visit his restaurant and those whom he delivers the food himself.

Around the time he was setting up his restaurant, his friend, who runs a nursing home on Zengcheng's Yongning Street, asked him if he would be willing to provide food to patients aged above 60 there.

Cheung thought it was a good idea. "It is my pleasure to do this social work by joining an official program promoted by the Guangzhou government."

Guangzhou residents aged above 60 are entitled to a 12-yuan ($1.85) government allowance for lunch from Monday to Friday.

In this undated photo, guests enjoy a meal at Cheung's restaurant. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

The senior citizens make use of this allowance to order lunch from a nearby restaurant. If they are admitted to a nursing home, they opt to have the meal delivered there.

Some of the elderly patients Cheung Man delivers food to are so pleased with his services that on getting discharged from the nursing homes they turn up at his restaurant with their families, including some younger members. He is ever grateful to these senior citizens who are helping increase his clientele

Cheung is one of many who have joined this government program to supply food to these senior citizens.

He uses the free time in the mornings to prepare special meals for these elderly people. That's not easy. He has to be careful. The food has to be light and healthy.

"The food is either steam-cooked or stewed," he said.

Week days are real busy for him. "Every Friday, I share a menu for the week ahead over the WeChat messaging app."

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The senior citizens place their orders one day in advance. Meaning, they order on Sunday for Monday and on Monday for Tuesday, and so on.

"On receiving the orders, I check on my supplies of rice, vegetables, meat, fruits and yogurt," he said. If he needs to buy something, he sets out early the next morning, around 5-6 am.

By 8 am, he is all set to prepare lunch for some 110 senior citizens. The senior citizens have specific tastes in food and it is difficult to please them all. But he tries his best. The food is light, so he sends something spicy alongside for those who like it spicy.

"I start packing the food around 10 am and deliver them to six nursing homes," Cheung said. "Some nursing homes are 2-3 kilometers away while the farthest one is 10 km away."

His wife looks after the restaurant while he is doing his good deed first thing in the morning.

In this undated photo, workers cook special meals for senior citizens. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Patients and guests

Some of the elderly patients he delivers food to are so pleased with his services that on getting discharged from the nursing homes they turn up at his restaurant with their families, including some younger members. He is ever grateful to these senior citizens who are helping increase his clientele.

"The mainland offers many preferential policies for people from Hong Kong, and I wanted to grab the chance," Cheung said. He has done well for himself. His restaurant has carved a place for itself in the past four months. His signature dish is roasted pork fried rice. "Some of my guests once told me that they drove around 30 km to savor the dish," he said.

Then there are others who are fans of his rocky bun with butter. One sexagenarian surnamed Lin arrives almost daily with his wife, who can't walk properly, to have the rocky bun.

Cooking and doing charitable work have brought Cheung a lot of happiness. In fact, he is doing so much work since leaving Hong Kong that he likens himself to a "Hong Kong youth", complete with their positivity, though he isn't getting any younger.

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Of course, his family members have been a great support. "I designed the restaurant's layout, while my wife helped me decide the menu and choose the crockery," he said. "I'm confident that in the future the Greater Bay Area's economy will be one of the biggest in the world."

As to his restaurant, Cheung is satisfied and not looking for overnight success. "I do have some expectations, though. Maybe the authorities can help more senior citizens come and dine at our restaurant," he said. "It'll also help if the government gives allowances for purchasing vegetables and fruits to those of us who are providing food to the senior citizens."