The Entrepreneur Series: Matthew Murtagh-Wu, The Dumpling King

More Than Dumplings

“What would you do with a million dollars?”

This was the question Matthew Murtagh-Wu and his then-partner of a venture capital firm would often ruminate about, to which he always responded without a doubt, “I’d cook.” A couple of months later, when the capital ran out and he stopped getting paid, Murtagh-Wu realized that he didn’t need a million dollars to do what his heart truly desired.

Listen to the full interview below and subscribe to our podcast on most streaming platforms:

Leaving the world of finance behind, Murtagh-Wu looked for jobs at various restaurants, working his way up from dishwashing to private chef work. As his business began to materialize, he brainstormed what he would cook. Eventually, he decided on dumplings.

“I wanted something that was fun and approachable,” he said. 

Alas, the Dumpling King was born. Murtagh-Wu now owns and operates a frozen dumpling business, mandated on sourcing all of its ingredients from Chinatown. A few years later, this household name would evolve to more than just dumplings, serving up pop-ups and a fresh t-shirt line, HAPA.

Gloria Macarenko interviews Matthew Murtagh-Wu for the CBC on his dumpling business.
Photo credit: @therealdumplingking

Murtagh-Wu’s dumplings are tasty but it is his personal touch and aptitude for relationship building that set him apart from the plethora of competitors. When he’s not hand-wrapping dumplings in the kitchen, he can be seen delivering dumplings to all sorts of establishments across town.

“I could just make dumplings and show no face, just crank them out like a machine, but there’s a person aspect which makes my business and me special,” he said.

True Authenticity 

To all the naysayers who question the authenticity of his dumplings, Murtagh-Wu challenges the meaning and relevance of “being authentic.” He believes what’s more important is the ability to resonate with your customers.

“I create flavours reminiscent of what I’ve eaten in the past, what I find are tasty,” he explained. “I’ve applied my knowledge and experience of eating Chinese food since childhood with the cooking of my father and grandma to restaurants in Richmond, Vancouver, and my travels in China and living in Taiwan.”

Born to an Asian father and a Canadian mother of British descent, identity is something Murtagh-Wu has grappled with throughout his life. 

Matthew Murtagh-Wu eats dumplings at Soap restaurant in Vancouver Chinatown.
Photo credit: @therealdumplingking

“Food has been a way for me to celebrate and connect with myself and also have other people come celebrate my take on and my contribution to what it means to be Chinese or Canadian,” he said.

Community Is All We Have

As a one-man team, Murtagh-Wu believes that finding other people who share your values is key to keeping your head in the game. 

“To not get yourself caught up in the trench warfare of self-doubt is to continue to network with people, continue to be excited about what I do, and never forget why I began,” he said.

A full pan of dumplings ready to fry.
Photo credit: @therealdumplingking

Not only have these professional and personal connections aided the growth of his business, but they have also gotten him through some difficult times.

“Working for yourself is really hard. I have tremendous support from my family, my partner, and the community,” Murtagh-Wu says on reflection. 

“We need to stay connected. Community is all we really have.”

Listen to the full interview below and subscribe to our podcast on most streaming platforms:

Hear more from Matthew Murtagh-Wu at The Entrepreneur Series event:

Date: Monday, September 23, 2019

Time: 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Location: D6 Lounge (39 Smithe St, Vancouver, BC V6B 0R3 – 6th Floor, THE DOUGLAS)

Tickets: $20 (until September 15), $30 (September 16-22) and $35 (on September 23 and at the door)

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