What Matters To Me: Caleb Ng, Culinary Entrepreneur
In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.
Caleb Ng discovered his love of cooking as a child alongside his twin brother, Joshua. Fast-forward 20 years, and the brothers’ culinary empire, Twins Kitchen, runs restaurants and projects around the globe. Recent initiatives closer to home include a pop-up event space, Preset, as well as Hong Kong’s first “culinary incubator,” Taste Kitchen, which offers a platform for young kitchen talents to test their ideas and find an audience. Here, Caleb Ng introduces his work in his own words.
In some ways the food industry is stuck in the Stone Age. I’m always testing its boundaries because a lot needs to be changed—bullying in the kitchen and excessive food waste, to name just a couple. I’m trying to find more innovative ways to do things and always looking to the future—asking myself what F&B will look like in 20 years.
The lifespan of a restaurant is getting ever shorter. You see so many restaurants that are packed for the first few months, then nobody goes. Social media, especially Instagram, has changed things. People want to go to the hip restaurant, the one everyone’s talking about. People don’t have loyalty like they used to. We opened Taste Kitchen in response to this shifting consumer trend. Plus, opening a restaurant in Hong Kong is super expensive; you need three or four million. I see a lot of young chefs who are very talented, but hurdles like marketing and rent are insurmountable. Good cooking technique is not enough. I wanted to bridge the gap.
It’s true what they say—the food industry is unforgiving. Especially in Hong Kong, where there is no mediocre. You either survive or you just disappear. Being an entrepreneur, particularly in the food industry, requires dedication. When you work seven days a week, you really need a family that respects what you are doing and is understanding of the sacrifice you are making to run your own business.
Working with family can be a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, I trust him more than anyone, but it’s a complex relationship—we are business partners, but we are also brothers. They are so interwoven it can be hard to separate the two, which leads to arguments. It’s the company that holds us together. We take a step back, think what’s best for the team and put our personal preferences aside.
I fell in love with food when I was seven and I made my first pancake. We had this Sunday routine where my mum would make pancakes in the morning. One day she overslept so me and my brother did it ourselves. That feeling of creating something from scratch and getting instant pleasure from it—it never leaves you. Even if you work in finance and make 10 million in a day, the satisfaction you get still might not be the same as making that pancake.
Our long-term ambition is to continue improving the industry. My brother and I share the same trait—we are never satisfied. If we achieved A today, we would immediately think “what’s B and how do we get there?” I really hope I still have this fire burning as strong throughout my career. It’s not the money or the milestones that drive me—it’s the desire to constantly improve.