Our series of online people profiles covers a wide range of backgrounds, careers and personalities of individuals in Hong Kong. In this instalment, we chat with long-term Indian expat Japneet Chahal who started down the path of an academic career before making a (sweet!) 180-degree turn with her company Party Mate Cakes which specialises in birthday and celebration cakes.
Tell us a bit about your background; where are you from, where did you grow up, and is Hong Kong “home” for you?
I was born and raised in India and have been living in Hong Kong for more than 15 years. I completed two postgraduate degrees, one in English Literature and another in Human Resources. But life had other plans for me, and I didn’t pursue a corporate career for very long.
What do you do here? Tell us about your business.
I’m a baker and a cake artist, running my own company, Party Mate Cakes, for the past few years. I make all sorts of sweet treats, however, my specialty is decorative birthday and celebration cakes and sugar work.
What have been the surprises and challenges of doing business in HK?
I won’t call them surprises but rather learning opportunities. Every day, I learn and adapt to new situations. The challenge is finding all the ingredients under one roof, as I use very specific high-quality brands. When something goes out of stock, I need to think on my feet and find the next best option. So managing inventory is critical.
Give us an insight into a typical working day for you.
My typical working day runs 14 to 16 hours and my work is skewed towards the weekends. Each cake takes many hours of work over an extension of two to three days, so I run many processes simultaneously on different orders. A lot of multi-tasking and planning is required to get each one to turn out perfectly and to the customer’s specific instructions!
What neighbourhood do you currently live in, and why did you choose it?
I live in Pok Fu Lam; I chose it as it’s quieter and very green.
What are three things you like about your neighbourhood?
The open sea view, the lush greenery, and how peaceful it is.
Describe your home to us.
I live with my wonderful partner of six-plus years and two young children. Last year, we adopted Lucy our family dog from Catherine’s Puppies. We feel blessed to have her in our lives!
Outside of work, what are your hobbies in Hong Kong?
When I’m not baking, I work out at my local CrossFit gym, Typhoon. It’s been a fixture in my life for the past 10 years, as exercise helps tremendously to get me stronger physically and mentally. I took up hiking not so long ago and finished my first Peak Master earlier this year.
Quick questions about Hong Kong: what’s your favourite…
Casual restaurant? Uma Nota
Special occasion restaurant? Caprice
Bar? Not a huge drinker
Local food? Dim sum
Things to do with visitors? Hiking nearby islands and eating local cuisine
Things to do with kids? Nature excursions, cooking family meals and watching Netflix together
Nearby holiday destination? Koh Samui, Thailand.
Like this? See more in our Living in Hong Kong section.