Meet the girls…
Part of the Cheung dynasty, who founded Hong Kong’s famous Garden Bakery and have since expanded into real estate and other areas, Amanda spends most of her time in Paris, where she works in marketing.
Jasmine’s family owns a prominent electronics corporation in Taiwan, and she has previously represented the country as a showjumper. She’s now working at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong.
Tiffany is currently launching accessories brand Lancaster in Asia. the Parisian label is part of the fashion empire built by her parents, Boby and Shirley.
Bangkok-based Tanyatip is working as a property developer and has a keen interest in the art world. Her family is behind the Charoen Pokphand Group.
After university, Rebekah moved home to Kuala Lumpur to work for her family’s business: The YTL corporation. She’s a devout Christian and is treasurer at Global Shapers Community KL, an NGO affiliated with the World Economic Forum.
“Dude, you look like Ruby Rose!” Jasmine Chen exclaims to Tiffany Chan, who has her cropped hair slicked back and is decked out in a pastel-pink leather jacket and skintight black trousers.
“I have such a girl crush on Ruby Rose,” Rebekah Yeoh admits. And girl crushes are the order of the day. We’re in the Mandarin Suite at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, where five young women from around Asia have gathered for a girl’s day out organised with the help of Amanda Cheung. All of the girls are in their early to mid 20s and, despite all being friends with Amanda, have never met each other before.“I just really like bringing people together,” Amanda explains, eyeing up the rows of Louis Vuitton heels lined up in the walk-in-wardrobe. “And I think these girls all have a similar outlook, and I know they’ll all get on. It should be a fun day!”
The girls do seem to have a remarkable amount in common. All five of them are recent graduates from top universities and – despite their privileged backgrounds – are now busy carving out their own careers. Amanda is in the final stages of interviews for marketing jobs in Paris, where she recently did a six-month stint at Louis Vuitton; Tiffany is bringing Parisian leather-goods brand Lancaster to Asia; Jasmine has just moved from New York to Hong Kong to work at Sotheby’s; Rebekah is working in Kuala Lumpur for her family business, YTL Corporation; and Tanyatip Chearavanont is now working in Bangkok as a property developer.
But they’ve taken a break from their day jobs for today’s photo shoot. Tiffany, who is the younger sister of fashion designer Harris, has even skipped the opening of a Lancaster store in Taiwan to be here. While she strikes a pose for the camera (“you look like a rock star,” the photographer shouts), the other girls all start to get to know each other. It turns out that both Jasmine and Tanya went to the University of Pennsylvania, though they didn’t ever meet, and that Tanya has also worked at Sotheby’s in the past. Both Rebekah and Tiffany studied in London (Rebekah at the London School of Economics and Tiffany at London College of Fashion) but never crossed paths. Perhaps the strangest coincidence is that both Jasmine and Amanda have twin sisters.
Despite all being born into families with large businesses, only Rebekah is currently working for the family firm. “I immediately moved back to Kuala Lumpur because I felt what better way to learn than to work with the people that you love,” she explains. But not all the talk is about work. Jasmine reveals that she has represented Taiwan in showjumping competitions and passes around photos of her horse, which she’s flying to Hong Kong so that she can practice here at the stables in Beas River. It turns out that Tiffany is a keen amateur DJ, so she takes on the job of choosing the tunes to keep everyone’s energy up. Happily, we discover that the speakers in the Mandarin Suite can go very, very loud. “I want to Shazam every one of these songs,” Rebekah tells Tiffany as she’s having the final touches put to her outfit. “Don’t worry,” Tiffany replies, “I’ll just send you the playlist on Spotify.”
The afternoon flies by in a whirlwind of hair and make-up, and before we know it, it’s dinner time. As the photographer packs up, the girls change into their own clothes and diamond jewellery designed by Michelle Ong, Amanda’s mum, who founded and runs Carnet Jewellery. For dinner we’re heading to Épure, the French fine-dining restaurant in Harbour City, which is a favourite of Amanda’s. And as Amanda’s family business is food (her grandfather founded Garden, the bakery that to this day provides most of the bread in Hong Kong and Greater China) and as she herself is a keen foodie, the others all trust her taste.
Épure’s menu, designed by Chef Nicolas Boutin, is short and sweet, with a choice of five starters, five mains and five desserts. But before we order, a selection of amuse bouches arrive, one of which is a pot of what looks like cream but is actually a puzzling sweet-corn foam. Everyone loves it, though none of us quite know what it is, so Amanda christens it a “sweet-corn cappuccino”.
The sommelier’s choices of a Chardonnay from Domaine Jessiaume and a 2013 Domaine Hudelot-Baillet Hautes Côtes de Nuits are approved by Amanda, who reveals she met a lot of her friends in Paris through a wine club. But despite her knowledge of fine food and drink, Amanda has been exposed to the less glamorous side of the food industry. “I did an internship in McDonalds,” she recounts. “And on the very first day I burned myself cooking the fries!”
“It’s true,” Tiffany assures us non-believers. “I used to go and visit her after work.” We’re temporarily distracted from tales of Amanda’s chip-frying days by the arrival of our starters. A couple of people have ordered the seared duck foie gras, two others have chosen the chilled lobster and Rebekah has gone for the oysters. At the maître d’s suggestion, I have the white button-mushroom soup, a creamy delight served with a handful of spinach gnocchi, spinach leaves and delicate slices of mushroom.
While Tanya shares details of her latest project, which she describes as a “mixed-use residential and office development in a high-rise tower – something that’s never really been done in Thailand before,” the mains start to arrive. The most popular choice on our table is the Wagyu beef that’s served with pointed cabbage, kombu from Brittany and peppercorn jus. The grade of the Wagyu (which is decided by a team of experts in Japan) is stamped proudly on the menu, and the meat is every bit as buttery and tender as one could hope for.
Two courses and several glasses of wine in, we’re full. Completely stuffed. We couldn’t possibly order anything sweet. But the waiter persuades us to take the menus back, “just have a look,” he encourages, and soon we’ve ordered an assortment of desserts. The strawberries two ways with creamy sticky rice is a fun fusion of European and Asian flavours and is delicately plated at the table. “But we really should’ve eaten fruit before the mains, rather than as a dessert, it’s much healthier that way,” Tanya points out. “That’s the Japanese way,” Rebekah adds. And just when we think we’ve finished, a whole tray of cheeses arrives for us to try.
When our cheese plates are licked clean (we could eat more, after all), it’s time for everyone to go their separate ways. Tiffany is trying to persuade everyone to join her in Lan Kwai Fong (Kee Club is on the cards), while Amanda is heading to Sevva for a bridal party. Rebekah is going straight back to her hotel so that she can pack before her early morning flight back to Malaysia tomorrow, and Jasmine needs to go home to prepare for a trip to visit her family in Taipei.
All this talk of packing leads the girls to wonder where they’ll next cross paths. “Oh my god, can we go on holiday together?” Jasmine asks. “You don’t want to know what happened when Tiffany and I last went on holiday together. We were in Tokyo last month and it was crazy,” Amanda answers, laughing. But it’s probably best if that story, and the rest of the evening, stays off the record.
PHOTOGRAPHY GORDON LUND
PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT CRYSTAL LEUNG
STYLING SHEENA KHEMANEY
MAKE-UP KAREN YIU AT HONG KONG MAKEUP ARTIST
MAKE-UP ASSISTANTS GLOOMY KWOK AND VINCY LEE AT HONG KONG MAKEUP ARTIST
HAIR SEIFERT CHEUNG
HAIR ASSISTANT GOHIO WONG
LOCATION MANDARIN ORIENTAL, HONG KONG AND EPURE