By Jamie Burnett
Inside a former Fremantle warehouse, Brendan Pang is patiently folding wontons with his mum and aunty. The warehouse has had a recent facelift and is currently being converted into foodie pop-up heaven (more on that later). But today the 26-year old is creating delicate and flavoursome bite-sized origami for his dumpling pop-up “Bumplings”. It’s repetitive, yet precise work. And the Pang family has had plenty of practice.
“My grandmother would teach me how to make wontons from scratch. The first memory of that was being in year three or four in school holidays, with my family and cousins around the table. We’d sit there together, make wontons and then everyone would get to enjoy it together.
“From a very early age, my grandmother and mum instilled a love and passion of food. Even things like fishing, being taught how to fillet and clean the fish before cooking it… it was about appreciating the whole process. My grandmother taught me it’s one thing to cook really good food, but it’s another to share it with those around you.”
And sharing good food is exactly what Brendan is doing at the moment. He’s a couple of months into his pop-up Bumplings. As the name suggests, it’s all about dumplings and located inside new “food incubator” The Sunshine Harvester Works. And while that space is still taking shape, Bumplings is the first pop-up inside to start trading.
“At this stage we’re only open on Fridays. But each week it’s been getting busier and busier. People are coming back which is a great sign… it’s awesome to watch people enjoy it. It makes me happy to see so many people here.”
“Most of my family work with me at Bumplings, but for us it’s about sharing it with everyone and seeing people enjoy it and smile. It’s all about that family vibe. I want to make sure people can taste the love in the food and the family recipes that are behind that. The wontons on the menu are just like the ones we would have growing up at family gatherings.”
If Brendan looks familiar, or his name rings a bell, it’s for good reason. The former social worker was a contestant on television cooking hit MasterChef. It’s been a year since he graced our screens battling it out over Mystery Box challenges, but for Brendon there hasn’t been too much time to reminisce.
“It changed my life. A lot of that wasn’t just because of MasterChef, there was a lot of hard work afterward and hustling. For me I wanted to pursue this and I wanted to share my love of food with everyone around me, which is what I do now.
“The view I took was I have nothing to lose. I work really hard at it and I was really excited by the fact that this could change my life and I could do something I really wanted to do. There are no regrets at all.
“Post MasterChef is difficult for a lot of contestants. You come from a bubble where you’re surrounded by food 24/7… and then you’re on the outside where you need to make it for yourself. I just hustled and I got some experience in kitchens like Petition and Wildflower. I did pop-ups, as well as cooking classes and demos. I just really put myself out there. I kind of just kept going with that and I think that’s resulted in a year later, being here at Bumplings.”
Bumplings is very much in its early stages but like any good cook or business owner, Brendan is already planning several steps ahead.
“I think it’s always good to think about the future, while keeping in mind that plans always change. For me I’m working on Bumplings, setting up the processes in the kitchen and working on the recipes. But looking into the future I’d love to move into my own space and have my own restaurant… very simple dumplings, noodles and Chinese street food. And I’d love to have my dumplings and chilli oil in the stores and make it like we have at home.”
Speaking of home, there’s one person Brendan always has in his thoughts. While he’s sharing food with the masses with great success, you feel he's still learning from that one person who taught him to fold wontons around the family kitchen table years ago.
“My grandmother always has something to say and she’s always right… she’s always got a bit of feedback.”
You can see Brendan Pang at Good Food and Wine Show Perth hosting the Pork and Prawn Dumpling Masterclass presented by Matso’s Broome Brewery. Brendon will give you the rundown on how to make amazing dumplings at home, matching them to Matso’s Ginger Beer, Matso’s Mango Beer and new release Matso’s Hard Lemon.