PHOTOS: Behind the Scenes at Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings

The romance behind Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings only extends so far. We dropped by right around closing time to see what happens after you’ve eaten your fill of dumplings.

mimi cheng's jess chou

The story behind Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings particularly adorable: sisters Hannah and Marian Cheng, working in business and fashion, respectively, decide to open a dumpling shop in honor of their mother. Named Mimi Cheng’s (their mother’s nickname), the shop serves chicken and zucchini, pork and cabbage, and vegetable dumplings, made with local and organic ingredients with their mother’s secret sauce.

Of course, the romance only extends so far — the realities of a kitchen are much more difficult to master. Working with plenty of oil and high demand, after hours often includes plenty of cleaning, not to mention prepping, wrapping and labeling.  And that doesn’t even include the managerial duties.

“It’s definitely a steep learning curve,” Marian says. “I spend a lot of time putting out fires, not literally, but there’s something new that happens everyday.”

We dropped by right around closing time to see what happens after you’ve eaten your fill of dumplings.

mimi cheng's jess chou

9:28 p.m.
The restaurant closes up, with a few stragglers slowly finishing up their meal.

mimi cheng's jess chou mimi cheng's jess chou mimi cheng's jess chou

9:32 p.m.
In the kitchen, the last batches of dumplings are fried up so workers can eat before moving on to cleaning.

mimi cheng's jess chou

9:40 p.m.
Group meeting in the kitchen to go over the day’s work, plus what might need to be done in the future. Marian catches up on some computer work. “There is a lot of scheduling, lists, figuring out recipes, like how much you need to prepare for the next day,” she says. “I have to schedule, do payroll, paperwork, ordering and inventory. There are lots of logs and forms and checklists you need to do.”

mimi cheng's jess chou mimi cheng's jess chou

mimi cheng's jess chou mimi cheng's jess chou

9:40 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Cleaning up includes sweeping the floors, wiping down counters, and cleaning and refilling every bottle of Sriracha.

mimi cheng's jess chou

9:53 p.m.
Meanwhile, sisters Hannah and Marian discuss scheduling and kitchen planning. “If it’s not set up right, people will run into each other,” Marian says. Hannah leaves early; she still works full-time in finance, after all.

mimi cheng's jess chou

mimi cheng's jess chou

10:04 p.m.
Buckets of ice are poured into the noodle cooker to bring the water temperature down before draining

mimi cheng's jess chou

10:13 p.m.
The sink, with plenty of dishes left to wash.

mimi cheng's jess chou

mimi cheng's jess chou

10:15 p.m. – 10:25 p.m.
Garbage and recycling gets taken out. Each trash bag is replaced (sometimes double-bagged) and held in place with a clamp.

mimi cheng's jess chou mimi cheng's jess chou

10:23 p.m.
More dishes and more cleaning. Even mama Mimi Cheng gets in on the action, tidying up the kitchen while her daughters discuss logistics

mimi cheng's jess chou

10:40 p.m. – 10:45 p.m.
The drink dispensers are emptied out and cleaned for the day; it will be set up again in the morning

mimi cheng's jess chou mimi cheng's jess chou mimi cheng's jess chou

10:45 p.m. -11:30 p.m.
The grill gets scrubbed down, then scraped.

mimi cheng's jess chou

10:54 p.m.
Marian interrupts her work to train a new hire (at almost 11 p.m.). First up, the noodle boiler.

mimi cheng's jess chou

mimi cheng's jess chou

 

mimi cheng's jess chou

11:15 p.m.
Marian starts labeling dumplings with the date before double-checking the filling for the next day.

mimi cheng's jess chou

11:52 p.m.
Meanwhile, Papa Cheng gets to work fixing the fridge.

mimi cheng's jess chou

11:52 p.m.
Meanwhile, Papa Cheng gets to work fixing the fridge.

mimi cheng's jess chou

11:30 p.m.
…before getting right back to computer work.  “I always heard you’re not going to get a lot of sleep, and I didn’t understand that until now,” Marian says. “I leave here whenever we are finished, sometimes 2 a.m., and we get here at 7 a.m. [to fill the dumplings], but I wake up at 5 a.m. or 5:30 a.m. if there is some computer work I need to catch up on.”

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Jessica is a multimedia journalist living in New York City, covering lifestyle and culture.