DAVID Chiang has come a long way since starting out at as a waiter at one of Johor Baru’s most famous kopitiams, Restoran Hua Mui, in 1969.
Hua Mui, which has been around since 1946, was initially an ordinary kopitiam. Today, David, 61, owns the business and with his son Jeremy, 34, has added two more outlets, in Skudai and Taman Mount Austin, Johor.
But David’s career wasn’t always so promising. He got his start at Hua Mui when he was just 15, following the death of his father.
“After my father passed away, my family became even poorer. So, I had to help my mother support my brothers and sisters,” he said. “I remember those days the restaurant closed at 12am, so a few other workers and I would sleep on the tables, so we could open on time at 6.30am. But I was very happy to have a job.”
At the same time, David started saving and making small investments to the business.
In 2001, he became the owner of Hua Mui. As the new boss, David decided to preserve the historic look and atmosphere of the place – including the restaurant’s famous pulley which allows staff to quickly hoist food from the kitchen downstairs to the charming dining area upstairs.
“The pulley has been around since I started working here. And you can only find it in this outlet, not the ones in Skudai and Mount Austin,” he said.
Another thing that was retained was the charcoal grill used to toast bread. According to David, Hua Mui is known for its toast, which tastes different from the other kopitiams that use electric or gas toasters.
And customers – old and young – love the old-school vibe of the restaurant. After all, Hua Mui is one of the oldest kopitiams in town.
David said that over the years, it has become a place for families to come together and enjoy Hua Mui’s famous food, like the signature yee mee, fried rice and mee mamak.
Hua Mui’s older customers also seem to like just hanging out at the place, faithfully turning up for breakfast every morning and only leaving in the evening.
With the increase in customers, it is only natural that Hua Mui has expanded its menu, which now includes Western food like grilled lamb chops and fish and chips, and a wider variety of local food and snacks.