//vol.15-4 Our Youth:


Charles Cheung:

My Life as a Book


Chef Charles Cheung has followed an unconventional path that is different from others, hoping to pass on stories worth reading for both himself and future generations.


Charles pictures his life when he’s 80 years old: he sees his grandson stepping into his restaurant with friends, declaring that they’re going to eat the world’s best fried rice. A dream now maybe, but who knows? 

Now a chef and entrepreneur, Charles has followed an unconventional path, following his passion. From his initial desire to open a restaurant to his one-step-at-a-time entrepreneur adventure from below the Lion Rock, Charles is always writing new chapters in the story of his life.


Chapter I: Planting Seeds

Born in 1991 to a working-class family, Charles was among the 33,000 residents living in Kowloon Walled City, where he derived his Chinese name “Dung-jeng” (name of the eastern gate in Kowloon Walled City). The densely populated and largely ungoverned enclave was torn down in 1994, following which Charles’s family relocated to government-provided public housing.

As the youngest of six siblings, Charles found himself in the kitchen after school, helping his mother while his elder siblings went to university. Originating from Chaozhou in Guangdong Province, both his parents influenced his interest in cooking, and it was during these formative years that Charles discovered his passion for cooking and spreading joy through food.

In addition to his culinary pursuits, Charles developed a keen interest in Chinese culture under his family’s influence. He delved into the world of Wuxia (武俠) novels penned by Jin Yong (金庸) and learned to play the erhu (二胡), a traditional Chinese instrument. Reflecting on this period, Charles notes, “Chinese culture is so cool, but many people didn’t share this sentiment. There was no strong sense of tradition and culture amongst my friends.” He considers himself lucky to have discovered his passion at such a young age.


Chapter II: From the Lion Rock to Hong Kong

In 2009, through friends, he came to know about the “Hong Kong 200” Leadership Project, organised by the Federation. Initially drawn by the prospect of exploring Chinese culture and cuisine during a seven-day cultural exchange trip to Beijing for the reasonable fee of HKD 500, Charles found the experience transcended all his expectations.

While continuing to pursue his love for cooking and Chinese culture, Charles went to the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to study Business Administration. Within his university, although he was the AIESEC President, Charles’ academic performance was not outstanding. Amidst the other talented participants from various Hong Kong universities in the programme, he felt humbled and small, like “a speck of dust” as he recalls. 

“Children from working class families, who lived in the public housing estates below the Lion Rock, didn’t have the network and opportunities like many of the others on the programme,” he said. However, the “Hong Kong 200” programme, designed to cultivate leadership skills and connect young minds with well-established industry leaders, gave Charles this opportunity and allowed him to expand his horizons and led him to contemplate the meaning of leadership.

He discovered that real leaders are not necessarily celebrities or corporate heads; rather, they are individuals who passionately pursue their interests and strive for excellence. For Charles, leadership was all about creating an impact and sharing innovative ideas with those around them. He emphasises, “Anyone can be a leader” by giving their best within a team.

In Charles’ perspective, working in a kitchen is also a testament to the importance of teamwork. “Working in the kitchen demands teamwork, starting from prepping ingredients like washing and chopping, to holding a ladle while cooking. Each role is crucial and requires attention to detail and appreciation.”


Chapter III: Taking Chinese Cuisines Global

While Charles’s peers entered the corporate world of banking and finance, adhering to the conventional nine-to-six routine as parents told them to do, he chose a less trodden path. He became a chef in a Cantonese restaurant, where his daily work started from cleaning and preparing fish. Charles embraced these early years as an apprentice which he says gave him a solid foundation, which later helped him launch a bigger business.

Years of dedicated practice paved the way for Charles to launch his venture, Catty and Tael (斤両食品), an online shop that sells pre-cooked fish maw and abalone, applying modern concepts and technology to traditional Cantonese cuisines. Apart from the shop, Charles operates a private kitchen for special occasions, aiming to showcase Chinese Cantonese culinary culture globally through a modern presentation.

After 14 years since Charles first joined the Federation, he has dedicated himself to actively supporting the community he was once a part of. He was involved in organising activities for young people, including Neighbourhood First, a community building project introduced by the Federation. 

“I hope to contribute back to the society through my creative ideas, experience and expertise,” Charles says.  

On the other side, the Federation also values his ideas and input as a member of the Federation’s Youth Service Advisory Committee. His ideas and insights play a crucial role in fostering positive development for the youth of Hong Kong.

Charles, when offering cooking classes to young people through the community kitchen programme, is aware of a diminishing willingness among individuals to pursue cooking as a profession. This waning interest can be linked to the demanding nature of the field, characterised by extended working hours and extensive practical apprenticeships, especially in the context of traditional Chinese culinary practices.

“Similar to calligraphy, the older generation is willing to invest three to five years honing the fundamentals of writing. They had limited access to the internet back then. To them, the world was what they saw,” says Charles. “In contrast, the younger generation often find themselves overwhelmed by the amount of information they encounter on a daily basis, leading to a shortened attention span.”


Words to Young People

Amidst the contemporary trend of pursuing multiple careers, known as the “slasher” phenomenon, Charles encourages young individuals to pause, reflect, and set long-term goals. “Life is all about dreaming, discovering your passion and translating it into action,” he says. “If life is a book, I hope it has a story that I’d love to read.”

To Charles, his life unfolds like a book of adventures. While looking forward to his life when he’s 80 years old, he envisions his story as chapters filled with inspiration and stories worth reading about, for both himself and future generations. 


Charles holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology School of Business. He’s also a “Hong Kong 200” alumnus and a member of the Federation’s Youth Service Advisory Committee.

He explores the art of crafting exquisite culinary creations, with a particular focus on cooking abalone and fish maw dishes, as well as contemporary Cantonese cuisine. His passion lies in bringing joy and happiness to those around him through the medium of good food.