Before Gwyneth Paltrow launched her wellness-lifestyle-travel blog Goop, she travelled with celebrity chef Mario Batali to film the PBS series Spain … on the Road Again. Here the vegan actress surprised viewers not only by showing off her flawless Spanish (she learned the language as a teenager) but also munching on chorizo and declaring her love for fried food (“I live for fried food”). A few months later, Paltrow announced her plans for a cookbook.
Perhaps taking a cue from the Hollywood actress, Hong Kong’s heartthrob movie star Nicholas Tse has also used his travel cooking show Chef Nic as a launch pad for a new career. Early this month, the singer-actor opened a bakery in Hong Kong selling his own cookies. The TV chef told reporters that he had been working secretly for months to perfect his own unique brand of biscuits.
At the moment, Tse’s cookies come in a tin with four varieties (or as he calls them, the “four flavours of life”) – sweet (butter), sour (lemon), bitter (dark chocolate) and spicy (chili). In its opening few weeks demand for the cookies was so overwhelming that the shop regularly sold out each day by mid-afternoon. This week, it started to impose a new rationing policy of only two tins per customer. Nor is this an exaggeration made to garner further publicity; when WiC visited the shop last week, it was mobbed by local fans of Tse and mainland Chinese tourists alike.
Mainland tourists in Hong Kong don’t just spend their time hoovering up luxury goods and baby formula. it seems. Turns out they like to purchase cookies as a souvenir to bring home too.
Jenny Cookies, another Hong Kong bakery that specialises in handmade cookies, has become one of the most popular gift items among Chinese tourists. Jenny Yeung, the eponymous founder, came up with a recipe that has a strong butter aroma. They were so popular that some resellers saw a business opportunity to offer them – at a small mark-up – to customers too impatient to wait in Jenny’s line.
Many Hong Kong celebrities have leveraged on their fame to open their own eateries. Going into the branded cookie market could be a first step for Tse – who plans to open bakeries throughout Asia – to build out his culinary empire. Next up? Selling his own line of kitchen utensils and perhaps opening a restaurant chain.
Experts say he’s astute to begin with cookies since they have a long shelf life and high margins. And with the help of his cooking show, which is scheduled to return for a second season later this year, it will allow him to cross-promote his biscuit business. Further evidence of the synergies: Tse told Ming Pao Daily that he has created a new milk cookie specifically for Chinese dairy giant Mengniu, the lead sponsor of Chef Nic. All told, this is an actor who may well get to have his cake and eat it too…
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