Healthy determination

Joanna Lui is ready to carve out her niche in Macau with the opening of her new restaurant Cha Bei.

“I am going to eat several of these,” says Joanna Lui as she pops a few fresh strawberries into her mouth. An expert in health and wellness, the young, bubbly entrepreneur and daughter of Francis Lui – Vice Chairman of Galaxy Entertainment Group – is the founder of Cha Bei, a casual, hip new restaurant that focuses on serving antioxidant-rich super food, smoothies, delicious low-fat dishes and exquisite teas.

“Joanna, you are never going to age if you keep popping those berries. They contain a lot of vitamins,” I comment.

“You know exactly what I am thinking of,” she replies, giggling and smiling.

Easy going and energetic, the elegantly slim health guru was born and raised in Hong Kong before heading to study at Massachusetts’ Tufts University in the US. Although she considers herself a Hongkonger, she does admit that growing up in the city was tough. Academically, she had a hard time fitting in.

“When I was a child, I went to one of Hong Kong’s local schools. I had really bad grades because the education system in this part of the world forces you to memorize everything,” she explains. “I had tutoring sessions seven days a week and no matter how hard I tried, I still could not excel. But when I went to study in the US I felt a lot better because I was encouraged to think critically and to learn in a different manner.”

After graduating from Tufts, Joanna returned to Hong Kong. She was determined to be a teacher, but soon realized she couldn’t change the education system. Her ideals and realities didn’t match. Saddened and disappointed, she quit her job as a school teacher and went on to start a career in the hospitality industry instead.

“I still remember the days when I worked at the front desk in Hong Kong’s Grand Hyatt hotel,” Joanna recalls. “I would meet all kinds of people from around the world. At some point, things got rough. I had been yelled and cursed at, but I learned a lot in regards to dealing with people. You have to always smile and be patient. Your brain has to work quickly to find a solution when difficult individuals are right in front of you and you have nowhere to go. These skills are very valuable indeed.”

It was not long after her challenging days at the front desk that Joanna was offered a chance to work in the food and beverage department, where she immediately fell in love with being in a team responsible for organizing banquets.

“We prepared hard for every event and when it finally happened and unfolded before our eyes, the sense of achievement that came after the long hours was remarkable,” she emphasizes.

Now, the founder of Cha Bei brings her wealth of experience from the hospitality industry into play at the new restaurant, with concepts inspired by her travel overseas.

“The concept of Cha Bei came to mind when I was traveling in the Nordic countries. I am especially fond of their ‘farm to table’ concept, because any dish can be delicious if the ingredients are fresh and I admire the Scandinavian aesthetics. Simplicity can be extremely beautiful,” she reveals.

It is no surprise that Cha Bei’s signature colors reflect the beauty of purity and Joanna’s personality. Guests will be delighted visually while their taste buds are spoiled by tantalizing flavors. Joanna particularly adores pink, a blushing hue that expresses happiness and warmth, while green represents nature and all the goodness that benefits humans. Every single piece of porcelain and tableware is also carefully chosen by Joanna, as she wants to channel her creativity into every detail of her brand.

Apart from her dashing career, Joanna is a family girl who values quality time with loved ones.

“I always appreciate the fact that my mother, a very capable and talented woman, basically gave up her career to take care of me and my two brothers, because my father is extremely hard working,” she says. “He works seven days a week and has an incredible work ethic. In the entire family, everyone also looks up to Grandpa, who believes that any goal can be achieved with due diligence and determination. His words and guidance are precious and I respect him very much.”

When asked about how she defines success, Joanna insists it is never about money or fame.

“I want to do what I love and be very good at it. That is how I define success,” she smiles. “At the end of the day, I wish I could just do nothing, enjoy life and live without working, but that is not the case.

 “In the future, I also plan to be more involved in philanthropy. Helping others makes me happy and it is a great feeling, but in my opinion, philanthropy is not just about giving out money. It should involve guiding others and enabling them to be self-sufficient in creating their own wealth. That requires time and dedication, but I will try my best for sure.”

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