Chong Kin-wo, the businesswoman behind the popular Wanchai Ferry brand of dumplings, died in Hong Kong on Monday at the age of 73.
Dubbed the “Dumpling Queen” by local media, Chong worked her way up from humble beginnings after starting her entrepreneurial journey during the late 70s by selling dumplings at a stall at the Wan Chai ferry pier.
Born in Qingdao in Shandong province in 1945, Chong arrived in Hong Kong in 1977 along with two daughters after breaking up with her husband. Unable to speak Cantonese, she initially worked as a dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant and also did cleaning jobs on trams. During her early days in the city, she sometimes put in as many as 20 hours a day in work.
Later she suffered waist pain from work and, during treatment, was diagnosed with diabetes. At this point in time, Chong took in a suggestion from a friend and started her own business at the Wan Chai ferry pier, selling hand-made dumplings of Northern China style, which she had been good at.
As the business continued to grow, Chong, who became known as “Madame Chong” among her customers, established her own dumpling company with Wanchai Ferry as the brand name of the products.
In 1997, Chong partnered with Pillsbury to expand the business. Later, following an acquisition deal for Pillsbury in 2001, Wanchai Ferry became a brand of the United States-based General Mills.
With the assistance of General Mills, Wanchai Ferry began selling Chinese style sauces in the US in 2007.
Wanchai Ferry Peking Dumpling Co, the company founded by Chong in 1985, confirmed Chong’s passing on Monday, saying details of her funeral affairs will be announced at a later time.
In 1995, TVB aired a serial TV drama based on Chong’s story, with singer and actress Adia Chan Chung-ling playing the role of Chong.
After learning about Chong’s death, Chan said in a social media post that the help she received from Chong and the businesswoman’s legendary life has had a great influence on her.
Chong was last seen in public in April 2018 when she showed up, in a wheelchair, at a naming ceremony held by C.W. Chu College of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Economic Journal noted.
The college named its multi-purpose hall as Chong Kin Wo Hall in appreciation of her support.
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