Cedele (pronounced ce-deli) snuck into Hong Kong without many bells and whistle, but to a loyal following and audience of frequent diners. They pack out the Hong Kong branches as avidly as they do in Singapore, where the store was first launched in 1997.
Following on from our interview with founder and owner Ms Cheng, one of two spirited sisters who balance inspiration and business savvy, we investigate as to the catalyst for opening in Fragrant Harbour.
What's the big aim of Cedele as a brand in the HK market?
We ensure the globalisation of our food according to the health needs of locals. For example, we have numerous gluten-free options for Singapore because many people can’t take wheat there–all our soups except for our beef stew is gluten-free and we thicken our soups with pure vegetables that are cooked fresh for many hours in the pot so everything tastes rich and wholesome when served.
What is the meaning behind; “Have you Cedeled today?"
What we would are trying to convey with that is "Have you eaten well today? Have you taken care of yourself today?"
How have you achieved all the milestones you have so far? Is there a secret?
To me I believe in positivity; its very important to know the glass is always half full, and that we have to always be grateful. We are very grateful for all our customers who I call friends and for Cedele's stakeholders, our pillars - who have continuously believed in us and made us who we are today. Everyone works so hard, and we hope that through good honest food, our bodies get that little bit less of a burden.
How did you become so passionate to do what you are up to now?
Due to many familial and personal health issues in the past, I’ve came to realise the negative impacts of pre-mixes and preservatives in food, and I therefore believe that I cannot serve people that. The food has to be healthful and I have to do everything from scratch.
Back then, in the 90s, everyone in the world thought I was loony because I refused to use margarine instead, advocating the use of butter and olive oil. Everyone “knew” that margarine was better, but right before I started my business in 1997, I vividly remember reading an article on Wall Street that stated if one ate the same amount of margarine and butter over the same period of time, margarine was found to be more cancer-causing. Research indicates margarine contains far higher amounts of trans-fats and this is the reason for its threat. That alone was enough for us to decide not to use margarine, even though 1kg of butter cost 2.5 times as much in those days.
Does the practise of no compromise continue today for Cedele?
We use ingredients that are a lot better for you. We avoid improvers or chemicals, and must have food in the most natural form. We are transparent and provide only the best. I only sell the food that I would eat myself. We must have the finest ingredients–even if it hurts our bottom line. This forms the basic responsibility and foundation of how we design our food and how we source for our ingredients.
What gave you the confidence to open so many cafes in Singapore and now here?
We are on a journey towards clean eating. How do you define clean eating? It is about being organic, pesticide-free, being free from all sorts of artificial preservatives or addictive substances and additives. Even for meats, meats should be clean, free from genetically modified stuff. This is an area we are tackling and will continue to work on, as we have already sorted all our fundamentals- the most responsible oils, the most responsible sugar and the finest of organic fresh goods. We believe in what we are doing and want to see people catch the same vision: food that's good for you and of highest quality is usually the best tasting food too.
We like that you have a lot of vegetarian options on your menus. Why is this?
We simply think good, wholesome vegetarian foods brings with it an array of health benefits. We also want to ensure we are being as inclusive as possible, meaning anyone can eat with us and have plenty of choice. Also, if everyone had one vegetarian meal a week, we would reduce carbon footprint by a load! For example we will have Clean Wednesday, every Wednesday because as a business, we want to give people the avenue to walk that vision, and we truly believe in the better good- not just for your health but for the world.
I wanted Cedele to be a destination for vegetarians looking for a restaurant with a range of options when dining with with non-vegetarian friends. I like the idea of inclusivity between family and friends when it comes to dining.
What do people need to know about your food?
We pay careful detailed attention in our daily fundamentals to ensure that we deliver our promise in advocating eating well to be well. We want our customers to be happy by making good food choices and we deliver them quality food options.
Take sandwiches for example; I think my bread is wholesome. We only have four ingredients in our breads, and if it's wholemeal, five! That’s it. We do not believe in adding in anything that would prolong the duration of our bread (or foods for that matter) and we ensure everything is done fresh for each meal.
Elements Mall: Shop 1026, 1 Austin Road, West Kowloon
Shop C G/F 58-64 Paterson Street, Fashion Walk, Causeway Bay HK
All Day Dining
Infinitus Plaza: G07-08 Infinitus Plaza, 199 Des Voeux Road, Central
If you liked this check out the first instalment about Cedele.