Hong Kong restaurant legend James Wu has died at 98

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James Wu, whose Hong Kong-based Maxim’s food and drink empire was a household name both in his hometown and on the Chinese mainland, giving him the power to forge partnerships with companies like Starbucks and Shake Shack, has passed away, the company announced. . He was 98 years old.

The man, who co-founded Maxim’s Caterers Ltd. with his older brother ST Wu in 1956, died Oct. 29 at the Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital, according to an announcement posted on the company’s website on Nov. 19. Her family later announced that a funeral was held on November 12.

Born in the United States to ancestry in the Taishan region of Guangdong province, the two Wu brothers opened their first Maxim’s as an upscale French restaurant at Lane Crawford House in the central district of Hong Kong. They wanted to create an upscale establishment that would not discriminate against local Chinese, having repeatedly sat near the bathroom when they went to eat in Western restaurants in Hong Kong around this time, according to previous reports. .

The restaurant they founded would go on to become a mainstay of the Hong Kong food scene, known both for its traditional full-service restaurants as well as for its bakeries, fast food outlets and catering services. She opened her first Maxim brand cafe in 1966 and operated a restaurant in the Hong Kong pavilion at Expo ’70, a version of the World’s Fair held in 1970 in Osaka, Japan.

It took Jardine Matheson, one of Hong Kong’s oldest trading houses, as one of its shareholders in 1972. That year, it also opened the first of its low-end fast food restaurants serving traditional Cantonese cuisine. There are currently 50 such restaurants in Hong Kong, as well as a number of other traditional Cantonese restaurants under various brands.

In addition to becoming a part of the daily life of many Hong Kongers, the brand has also gained recognition among foreigners for its Western-style pastries. Its bakery chain currently has more than 170 outlets, including more than 100 outside the city, including in the cities of Guangzhou, Foshan and Shenzhen in neighboring Guangdong province on the Chinese mainland. Its traditional moon cakes, sold on the Mid-Autumn Festival which usually falls in September, have become synonymous with traditional Chinese pastry.

The company has also established itself in the food and beverage industry as a competent and trusted partner. In 2000, she helped Starbucks enter Hong Kong and became the owner of the Starbucks franchise in Hong Kong and Macau in 2011, with over 200 stores. He was also briefly a partner in Starbucks’ Southern China Joint Venture, and in 2013 became an authorized operator of Starbucks locations in a number of Southeast Asian markets including Vietnam, the Cambodia, Singapore and Thailand.

He has worked in similar capacities with a number of Japanese restaurant brands, as well as with the American burger chain Shake Shack.

Wu had two sons and four daughters. The eldest daughter, Annie, was given the nickname “001 Sister” after helping her father register the Sino-foreign joint venture “001” in 1978 at the very beginning of the Chinese reform era, with an airline catering company. She also became a source of controversy last year after speaking out against protesters in the city who vandalized some Maxim’s stores during violent protests against an unpopular extradition law.

Current Maxim Chairman Michael Wu, grandson of ST Wu, has called James Wu a passionate visionary in the food and beverage industry, with many merits to his credit. In his own statement, Maxim’s said Wu worked tirelessly and was not afraid to do things himself during his 64 years of leadership. Jardine Matheson also praised him as a visionary leader.

Contact reporter Yang Ge ([email protected]) and editor Gavin Cross ([email protected])

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