Linda Chan, Owner of The Mandalay

Jo McGarry photo.

Were you born here in Hawaii? I was born and raised in Hong Kong.

Did you grow up in a food industry family? Was food a big influence? No, not at all (laughs). Only when we came to Hawaii did we become interested in the restaurant business.

What made you choose restaurants as a career? The industry is really hard work. Really, it’s such a happy business. When you see customers happy, it makes you feel good.

So many restaurant owners tell me that, and despite the expense of running a restaurant, they do seem to be happy. Here we have a lot of happy occasions. We cater weddings, birthdays, graduations, baptisms – all of them are happy occasions.

So you only see the good side of everyone. (laughs) You could say that … and we deal with a lot of different people, too – everyone from politicians to families to business crowd. It’s a very diverse and happy group.

You serve dim sum daily, but you don’t have dim sum carts. Our dim sum is made fresh daily and is cooked to order. This is very important because with dim sum, if you leave certain items in a cart or leave them sitting too long, then the texture of the shrimp or whatever is inside changes.

Does that mean a longer wait? No, it’s fast. The chef says when there are 200 or 300 people for lunch, it’s better. He piles the baskets high in the kitchen and gets them to the table very fast. The more the merrier.

Where do you and your husband go when you dine out? Oh, we like to try different food, like Japanese and Italian, but we also enjoy going to other Chinese restaurants to see how they operate and to see how we can get better!

Do you cook at home? Yes, we do. We enjoy making soups with herbs or melon – the kind of Chinese soups that you can’t find so easily in most restaurants.

What is always in your fridge? Chicken and fish.

After 20 years in the restaurant business, how would you offer help to someone just starting? I think it’s important to know that the product has to be very, very good, but it’s also so important to cater to people and to understand what they want. You have to really listen.

If you hadn’t been in the restaurant business, what would you have done? I majored in accounting. I love numbers. It’s a totally different field of course. There’s a little more activity in the restaurant business I think.

The Mandalay
1055 Alakea St.