Sweet Republic's Helen Yung on Growing Up in Hong Kong, Investment Banking, and Foie
Nikki Buchanan Helen Yung, Sweet Republic
9160 East Shea Boulevard, Scottsdale
This is part one of my interview with Helen Yung, co-owner and ice cream designer/maker at Sweet Republic. Come back Tuesday, when Yung dishes about her favorite Phoenix Chinese restaurants and how to evaluate great ice cream.
You'd never know it to look at her (she's just a wisp of a thing), but Helen Yung is food-obsessed. In fact, she's the classic foodist -- always thinking, reading, and talking about food, taking pictures of it, Facebook posting and Instagramming it, and, of course, putting away massive amounts of it. Where does it all go? That's the mystery. But then, Yung was a certified personal trainer in another life, just as she was an investment banker. She's a chameleon of a woman who, apparently, can do anything she sets her incisive mind to.
Buchanan Handing out a sample
She's often portrayed as a career-changer, leaving behind the high-powered world of investment banking to make ice cream. It's a charming story, but the truth is, she was in her early 20s when she walked away from the numbers-crunching corporate grind, so it's more accurate to say she figured out, early on, that investment banking didn't feed her soul -- and food did.
Yung, who grew up in Hong Kong, left home at 15 to attend boarding school at Exeter in New Hampshire, later spending one year of college at Johns Hopkins before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in finance and accounting. She landed a job at Cititgroup, where she worked for three years (the last of which was in London) as an analyst before being promoted to associate. She was back in New York for training when she met Jan Wichayanuparp, who had been working in Bangkok for Citigroup and had also earned a promotion. During their three-month training session, the two spent many evenings over good meals in the city.