Archive for November, 2007

What Happened to Us This Week

November 30, 2007

Welcome to our Blog. This is a way to keep in touch with friends around the world and keep you up-to-date with our news so far. We’ve outgrown the small news reel on the home page and finally set up our own blog. We hope you enjoy reading about our journey so far.  

My name is Helen Tse and together with my two sisters, Lisa and Janet we run the award winning Sweet Mandarin restaurant in the UK.  I will be the voice for my sisters too – they share in my heritage and the hard work in setting up Sweet Mandarin.

Have you ever felt stuck in a rut, wondering what life was all about. In a former life, I was all about slogging it out in the City of London and climbing up the greasy pole to further my career. A trip to Hong Kong, a desire to create a legacy that honoured my family and a dream to open a restaurant led me to return to my roots. “A Journey of A Thousand Miles Starts With One Step” – this Chinese proverb is etched on the cover of my book, Sweet Mandarin. My sisters and I have had quite an exciting journey so far and its thanks to Sweet Mandarin and the path laid down before us by our mother and grandmother. Taking the courageous step to move back home and open Sweet Mandarin (Lisa gave up the steady pay cheque as a financier, Janet gave up her expertise as an engineer) has been worth it and we have never looked back.

Now four years on, Lisa runs Sweet Mandarin with her dedicated team. Janet is married, settled down, pruning her nest and a mother to a beautiful baby girl (maybe she’ll be the fourth generation of women restaranteur? :)) My life juggles book signings, talks with schools, liasing with Lisa on decisions regarding the restaurant, keeping ahead of the competition by being entrepreneurial and juggling the family responsibilities. Life isn’t always plain sailing especially with the challenges of being a woman, an entrepreneur, a restaurateur, and an ethnic minority.

I explore the issues that affect us, conversations overheard at Sweet Mandarin, my discussions with my sisters about returning to our roots, dealing with culture clash and becoming a published author. Sometimes, our lives moves so fast we forget all the things that have happened. This blog will be like a snapshot on the details of life, the decisions we take and how such actions have contributed to my journey through life. Want to learn more about how the Chinese think? Read on… 

We started Sweet Mandarin four years ago. Some people think we’ve been in business all our lives. Well in a way we have. We  served in our parents’ chippy since the age of 11 years old (“any salt and vinegar on yer chips?” pause. wrap furiously. smile to hide nervousness and look in the direction of the impatient crowd, avoiding eye contact “any soy sauce on yer fried rice?” look at the old clock ticking in the background….half an hour to go…i hope no customers come in…..five minutes to go….customer comes in and orders the entire shop menu. typical. that has been my friday evening since the age of 11). My sisters and I always were a dab hand at shifting the largest volumes of wrapping paper for  Young Enterprise (“quick corner the staff room and don’t let the teachers in until they have bought at least two rolls of wrapping paper and a santa claus candle”).

Its amazing how after four years we have grown together as a family, as a business and as an integral part of the community. Lisa is really the face of Sweet Mandarin and as the CEO was invited to be the key note speaker for Growing Business Conference 2008 at the GMEX Exhibition Hall, listed as an expert on entrepreneurship in Flux Magazine and impressively was finalist in the Women of the Future Awards 2007 presented by Liz Hurley and the Precious Awards 2007.

We are known as “The Tse Sisters” and were featured in the Bold Venturers book of Entrepreneurs, as key role models for the Make Your Mark Campaign and made it into the top 100 entrepreneurs list in EN Magazine.

Sweet Mandarin is also the title of my book, published by Random House worldwide, published by St Martins/Thomas Dunne in USA and we just secured the audio book deal with BBC Books. This book charts our epic story beginning with our great grandfather, grandmother, mother and our generation. Four families who made a living from food, and our obstacles in our journey from East to West. You can buy the book on and the audiobook is available from BBC Books.