2019 Foodies of the Year: Wendy Au Yeung
The Vancouver-based cook and community facilitator understands the capacity food has to empower people and bring them together.
The Connector: Wendy Au Yeung
Founder, Happy Woman Kitchen, Vancouver
Wendy Au Yeung may not be a professionally trained chef (“I just love to cook and I think I do it fairly well,” she says), but she understands the capacity food has to empower people and bring them together. It’s why she launched Happy Woman Kitchen, a culinary-based social enterprise that offers employment opportunities to marginalized women in Vancouver’s Strathcona and Downtown Eastside neighbourhoods.
The non-profit was founded last summer when Mrs. Kuang, a friend and neighbour of Au Yeung’s who immigrated to Vancouver from Zhenjiang more than two decades ago, was invited by Au Yeung to sell her homemade pork-and-chive dumplings at the Strathcona Artisan Market. Au Yeung saw the chance to involve other members of the community and, within a few days, the pair were joined by a group of Mrs. Kuang’s friends at a local community space, where they wrapped made-from-scratch dumplings and whipped up sauces for chilled noodle bowls.
Soon, the smiling popos were selling sago soup, Hong Kong-style curry fish balls and other street food-inspired Chinese dishes at a series of seasonal pop-ups in Chinatown. The money earned at the events goes directly to the grandmas or to purchase equipment and perishable items for future pop-ups. “The idea is to give them the ability to sell at different markets,” explains Au Yeung. “I want to give these women as much ownership as possible and only fill in where needed. Empowerment is key.”
This summer, Au Yeung hopes to partner with other low-income, immigrant and refugee women in the area, and offer them temporary work. “It’s not about centring me or my product,” she says. “It’s a way to centre women on the margins and their talent, contributions and food.”