How I Got Here: Z He

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Z He Bun House

Related tags: Casual dining, Chinatown, Chinese Food

Z He launched Cantonese steamed bun specialist Bun House in early 2017. She will open a second Bun House early next year just down the road from the Soho original.

Why restaurants?
It’s been a dream to open up a food venture, with my then boyfriend now husband and business partner, since I was in university. Though I’ve been studying design my entire school life, restaurants, at least the way we do it now, combines my passions of food and design.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Pay up for people with a good reputation to save money in the long run. There’s always a reason something is “so cheap”.

What do you do in your spare time?
What spare time?

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
St John. Easily the most important restaurants in London.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
I'd probably be designing restaurants for other people...

What motivates you?
Seeing projects that have potential but not quite fully realised; fills me with desire to perfect it.

Where was your last holiday?
Vietnam. One of my favorite gastronomic holidays as well. It is an incredible country that understands the relationship between seasons, food, and body so well. The heat and humidity can drive one insane there at times, but the wisdom of the cuisine is to find balance between the environment and the body.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
All of my colleagues inspired me in different ways. Since we take on so many aspects of each project - from branding and interior to packaging and the menu itself, there’s so much discussion and ideas thrown around the room all day long. We have a young team and the lack of experience in the industry kind of makes things more fun and daring.   

What keeps you up at night?
An over-full stomach from menu testing.

Worst business decision?
Not paying up for those with a good reputation… 

Best business decision?
Start with what you know​, not necessarily what you love. ​We have many ideas for new and different restaurants but we started with Chinese because… I’m Chinese. You can always tell when a restaurant concept has been started by someone who doesn’t really get​ the culture the food comes from.

What are you reading at the moment?
Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Watch Pasolini’s Salò. If you are aren’t put off by it you have the stomach for the restaurant industry.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
Put a limit on the number of locations one restaurant can have in a city. Pret culture is ruining London’s food scene.

CV

1987 Born Guangdong, China 
Studied Bachelors of Interior Architecture at School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a Masters of Landscape Urbanism at Architectural Association in London
2014 Founded Five Line Projects Interior and Architectural Design
2015 Design Director, Mossman Family Import Co.
2017 Founded Bun House in Soho

Related topics: People

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