Meet Jackie Yun
Name: Jackie Yun
Work: Co-Owner and Managing Partner, Wagas Group
Lives: Shanghai, China
Award: 2017 Advance Global Australian Food and Agriculture (Food) Award
Describe what you do and why it’s important in one sentence.
I am part of an amazing team who pioneered healthy delicious western food in Shanghai and now we have a larger platform to influence more Chinese people to eat better after the boom years of fast food culture.
How is Australia influencing the food landscape across the world?
Our produce, people, and surroundings are so amazing and diverse it attracts some of the world’s best chefs to go to Australia to learn and explore what we offer locally. In terms of export, Australians continue to strive. Growing up in Australia’s multi-cultural community and being exposed to so many types of cuisine was our norm. It allowed us to be more open and curious in terms of eating and cooking. Thank god we have moved on from bright yellow lemon chicken and fried rice from the 80s. As nasty as it was, it did give Australians access to the concept of (and I use this term loosely) “Chinese” food very early on. I believe food and culture diversity has given Australian chefs an edge dating back to the early years of Neil Perry to today’s hot young talent scattered across places like NY, LA, and London.
Besides its people, what do you consider Australia’s greatest export?
Café Culture. Swimming lessons should be next.
What’s the best thing about connecting with fellow Australians while overseas?
Their ability to laugh at themselves and a shared appreciation of a good meat pie.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Mum’s - You should not, cannot always be right (hence why she has been happily married to dad for 59.5 years!)
What does winning the 2017 Advance Global Australian Food Award mean to you?
It’s an honour to even be considered for an award of this level, especially alongside some of the other amazing winners whose work is actually life-changing. But to win is totally unexpected and I feel very, very grateful. I only ever won sports prizes! I would not be here without the support of my parents, my business partner John, my partner Deborah, our Wagas team and our loyal customers. The Advance Award is the ultimate recognition of my original 2001 idea of bringing a little bit of the Sydney café culture to Shanghai.
What’s the first thing you do after returning to Australia after a period of time away?
Swim in the sea.
What are the biggest differences between Chinese and Australian consumer habits?
Chinese are much quicker to accept new technology, for example, digital payments, and electric cars. My Chinese friends (18 to 60 years old) think using a credit card is so 90s. From buying clothes, coffees, to a dog, everything is via WeChat or Alipay on their smartphone; unless they travel overseas, then they have to use their credit card. The EV market and attitude towards EV is much more advanced than Australia, in my opinion. China’s business hours are longer hence more people are out and about shopping, eating out after 5pm. Sydney’s like a ghost town after 5pm, population being the most obvious reason, but Chinese do love to go out. There isn’t really a culture of cooking and entertaining friends at home here.
Meet Jackie Yun, the 2017 Advance Global Australian Food Award Winner and check out her acceptance speech from the Awards ceremony below.