“It’s always a fun time a Hochi Mama’s!” Enjoy South-East Asian feasts, colourful cocktails and rnb tunes with your mates
We sat down with one of Hochi Mama’s co-owners to discover this small businesses local story.
What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Midawell Phal. I have worked in the Bars & Nightclub industry for a very long time, and am also one of the co-owners here at Hochi Mama.
How did the idea for Hochi Mama come about?
The Hochi Mama co-owners are more than just colleagues – we’re also good friends. We grew up together in the suburb of Springvale. We went to school together, played basketball together, and ate dinner together at many of the local Vietnamese restaurants. We always talked about how great it would be to open a restaurant together one day – something in the CBD that truly reflected our upbringing and our tastes. In 2015, we brought that dream to life by introducing Hochi Mama to the world!
What is your business story?
Further to the above, the concept of Hochi Mama works because each co-owner brings a different skillset to the table. We each have our own other businesses, so entrepreneurial spirit and acumen is something we share and respect in one another – that’s very important. But our responsibilities within the business reflect our personal strengths, too, and this has been integral to our success. Of course, we also recruit strategically and are proud to have the most brilliant team of staff members.
What do you love most about being a business in Melbourne CBD?
Melbourne’s CBD has such a dynamic energy, which I love. I also LOVE that our business contributes to Melbourne’s reputation as the country’s food capital – especially because we’re in a laneway. Nothing is more Melbournian than having a laneway location!
In your opinion, what makes the ultimate Vietnamese-infused dish?
The hallmarks of Vietnamese cuisine are (a) its balance of salty, sweet, sour and spicy flavours, and (b) the freshness of its ingredients.
The inspiration for our menu has its roots in Vietnamese cuisine, but many of the dishes hail from other parts of Asia. The underlying themes that tie them all together and lend them a “Vietnamese-infused” feel are their balanced flavours and fresh produce.
You have considerably raised the bar from the humble beginnings of Vietnamese takeaway in plastic containers. Where does your inspiration come from for your menu items?
Thank you! Many of our menu items are quite traditional – things like our Pho, for example, don’t stray too far from what you’d find in Vietnam. Other dishes are very contemporary. We work with our highly-skilled kitchen team to innovate classics, or fuse together different concepts. We also get inspired from our many travels.
What is the most requested item on your menu?
Our Hochi Fried Chicken and Chicken Bao are the most popular menu items, but our cocktails deserve an honourable mention. Our customers LOVE our cocktails, and it’s easy to see why. We have extremely talented mixologists.
What is your business famous for? Signature dish?
Originally, we were known for our Pho-filled dumplings (we call them “Pho’plings”), but there are so many crowd-favourites now, we couldn’t possible name just one signature dish
The character and atmosphere of an establishment is quickly becoming a crucial factor in the dining experience within Melbourne. How big of a part do you think the character and atmosphere of Hochi Mama plays in being a successful eatery?
Melbourne has so many amazing restaurants and eateries that other elements – such as character and atmosphere – become critical factors in creating a point of difference. We know from testimonials and reviews that when people dine at Hochi Mama, they are coming for the vibe and energy as much as they are coming for the food and drink.
What made you want to start your own small business?
I enjoy entrepreneurialism because it gives me the freedom to manifest creative ideas and action change where I see fit.
Do you have any advice for small businesses starting up?
Start before you’re ready. There’s never going to be a “perfect” time to do anything, and you’re never going to feel “ready” enough. But the only way to get where you want to go is by starting, and learning, then refining.
What’s one quirky fact about your business?
One of the activities we enjoyed most when we prepared to open Hochi Mama was shopping for colourful cutlery and crockery… It’s probably not a very quirky fact, but it might be unexpected given that the founding team are a bunch of RnB/Hip Hop-loving blokes!