“There's been a huge explosion of regional Chinese food in London over the last decade and we are happy to be part of that. Our name "Hao Hao Chi" - means literally "good good eat" in Chinese and it’s what people say over there when they've tried something satisfying and delicious.”
Lucy Ahfong, co-runs Hao Hao Chi, a Chinese street food kiosk in Peckham Levels with friends, Jaimie and Joe.
How was Hao Hao Chi born?
In 2010 I quit the rat-race and went to China, ending up staying there for five years. During that time, my friends Jaimie and Joe went travelling around Asia and met up with me. Food was the main driver for our travels and we found there was a lot more to Chinese food than what we were used to in London and from our Chinese families. So when we were all back in London in 2015, I went to dinner at Jaimie and Joe's house and by the end of it, aided by lots of wine, we decided to start our own street food business. Our niche would be Chinese regional food based on the street food that we discovered and loved in around China. By this time, the food scene in London had been growing so fast and street food had exploded everywhere. Three weeks after that pivotal night we booked a spot at a food festival, sold out and never looked back
There's been a huge explosion of regional Chinese food in London over the last decade and we are happy to be part of that. Our name "Hao Hao Chi" - means literally "good good eat" in Chinese and it’s what people say over there when they've tried something satisfying and delicious. Our aim is for our customers to feel that exact sensation.
What were you doing before?
Before that I was working with start-up companies to help grow businesses in universities, nothing to do with food. The new technologies I was working with were fascinating and the job taught me a lot about entrepreneurship. However, my passion, like Jaimie’s, was food, inventing dishes and trying out new recipes. We decided to leave our jobs and make a career around something we loved to do.
What's your favourite part of it all?
I like being creative to solve problems which is something you need to do all the time as a business owner as it's very unpredictable. However, I could never go back to a 9 to 5 job, it's great to be my own boss.
Do you have any tips for someone starting their own business?
I'd say do lots of research, you never know what will happen. You could write a business plan like we did, 40 pages long and down the line when you're actually doing the business, it changes. So be prepared to be flexible. And networking is a good tip I always give, talk to people in the business, join Facebook groups, any kind of groups where you can get advice.
What do you like about being in Peckham Levels?
We like the community and the fact that everyone pretty much started alongside us, we're all in the same boat and it's great to see familiar faces every day.
What's your favourite Hao Hao Chi dish?
Of course, I like them all but I especially like the cold noodles. When I was travelling and living in China, cold noodles were sold on every street corner during the summer because China gets so hot people want something refreshing. I decided to do a modified version here and it was super popular last Summer and will be back on the menu soon. It's spicy, peanut-ty, with tons of flavour and perfect for the Summer.
Credit: Ash Chalk (photography & interview)