BRAMPTON, Ont. — When James Chiu, his brother George and long-time friend K.C. Chang formed a partnership in 1979 to buy a restaurant in Brampton called the Mandarin, they had no idea how it would change their lives.
As immigrants from China, via Montreal, where they held a variety of jobs, the trio had to sell all their belongings — share a two-bedroom apartment — and pool their money for the investment. Twenty-hour work days were pretty commonplace, but almost from the outset the restaurant was successful, with line ups often snaking outside the door and down the street. Fast forward to 2009 and the restaurant that popularized Chinese buffets — and now boasts 21 units in Ontario — is celebrating 30 years.
With enough glitz and glam to rival a Las Vegas production, the team at Mandarin invited many of its long-serving suppliers to attend a splashy Supplier Appreciation Night at its Garden Conference Centre in Brampton, Ont. The evening began with a musical production starring the three partners, all decked out in pink (the company colour). “We’re tickled pink that you’re here to support us tonight and that you have supported us over the past 30 years,” said George Chiu in welcoming guests to the three-course celebration, developed by Humber College’s Ontario Culinary Olympians Rudi Fischbacher and James Bodanis and prepared by the school’s students.
Throughout the evening, Mandarin fêted the long-standing relationship with its suppliers who returned the favour. Donning costumes and creating their own tribute to Mandarin, performed to the music of YMCA by the Village People, the suppliers took to the stage with much aplomb. Later in the evening, Mandarin honoured their suppliers by presenting them with awards. Among the winners were Coca Cola, Topper’s Linens and GFS. Dan Gordon, president of GFS flew in from Michigan to be part of the festivities.
Much has changed in Mandarin’s history during the past three decades, but what hasn’t changed is the company’s continued focus on its four pillars of strength: value, service, teamwork, and community. The company is committed to opening one to two new restaurants annually.