Joosje Hardus and Mina Ingram are the co-owners of Knead, a neighborhood made-to-order sandwich shop in Sheung Wan. They tell us why owning a restaurant is like having a child, and how Hong Kong’s good sandwich shops all have one thing in common.
A Little Background
Half-Japanese, half-Australian Ingram grew up in different cities around the world, including Hong Kong. She has been cooking since she was young, and was a manager at Castelo Concepts restaurant group before branching out on her own. Hardus is from the Netherlands, where she studied hospitality in school. She came to Hong Kong a few years ago for an internship, and has stayed ever since. About half a year ago, the women teamed up to work on a project both of them were passionate about, and Knead was born.
How did this idea for a sandwich shop come about?
Joosje Hardus: I was always saying, in my four years here, how I miss a good sandwich in Hong Kong. I just wanted to open up my own sandwich shop. And then Mina, whom I kind of knew, was saying, “I just want to open up a toastie shop. I miss a good toastie.” So six months later, we opened up Knead.
What’s wrong with the sandwiches in Hong Kong?
JH: Everything’s always pre-packed, pre-made. That’s not good. Especially when you go to a shop and ask, “Can I have this sandwich with less butter on it?” No you cannot.
But we’ve seen massive improvements in the sandwich scene in the past year, don’t you agree?
JH: They’re good. But price-wise, all sandwich shops in Hong Kong are crazy expensive.
What makes or breaks a sandwich?
Mina Ingram: Definitely, the bread is one thing. Every comment or feedback we’ve had, was that the bread has to be good. That’s the biggest complaint we get as well: the bread isn’t cooked enough, is too sweet… It’s also all about freshly made sandwiches. We try to give our customers exactly what they want.
Do you make your own bread?
MI: We would love to, but we don’t have the space to make our own bread. We have to rely on our suppliers right now.
What is the best and worst thing about having your own restaurant?
MI: The best thing is, it’s all yours. It’s like your child. And even if your child annoys you, you’d still love it. The worst is working all the time. I love being here at lunch, I love being busy, but sometimes you’re just on your feet all day and tired.
JH: The good thing is it doesn’t feel like work. I don’t have the feeling like, “I gotta go to work, be there at 9am.” The bad thing is you have to be here all the time.
Are there times the two of you don’t get along?
MI: Of course. It’s about negotiation. I know when I need to win, and when Joosje needs to win. There are things that are more important to me or more important to Joosje. As a partner, you go: “I’ll just give in because I know this is more important for you.” You can’t just fight for the sake of it. you have to know when the right time is to win and lose.
JH: But you know, we signed a five-year lease. We’re married now. Signing that was like, “Okay, we have a baby now.”
Read more from our Dishin’ the Dirt series.