Jumping from matchmaking to meat-curing — it’s a career pivot that would raise some eyebrows, but JJ Wu Chang proves that his artisanal enterprises know little bounds.
Helping singles find love is no easy feat, but Hong Kong born-and-bred JJ Wu Chang has been doing exactly that for over five years. Now, he’s recognized as one of our city’s go-to professional matchmakers. His charcuterie journey, on the other hand, was an unexpected pivot that he never imagined would spring into a business.
Two years ago, by chance, he was introduced to a cooking group where he was served a starter that changed his life — homemade duck prosciutto. Wu Chang “gorged on the entire plate” while the rest of the group milled around trying other dishes. At the end of the night, Wu Chang was given the recipe by his friend and told to try make it at home. Unfortunately, shortly after this event, his friend tragically passed away, leaving the entire cooking group in shock.
“I decided to take his passing as a means to continue his passion and manic mentality and put that into my ham journey,” says Wu Chang. “After these events, I was quite exhausted from matchmaking work and I decided to focus my free time on trying more flavours, recipes, techniques and mediums for making ham. It was a completely different experience because it was the total opposite of my day job. I didn’t have to be social and I could just focus and enter a ‘trance-like’ state while working. It became a therapeutic hobby.
I’ve always had a fascination for ham and charcuterie. I was fortunate enough to be able to try many different varieties when I was younger. There’s a level of complexity that you can get from eating ham that you really can’t get with other forms of snacks.”
Tell us more about the beginning of The Meat Consultant.
To be honest, I did not expect it to turn into a business when I first started. In my off hours as a matchmaker, I was just at home taste-testing new recipes and trying new pieces to see if it would work. I was eating every piece I made, but then, it reached a point where I was making more than I could consume. Instead of letting it go to waste, I would simply bring it to friends’ gatherings and send some to friends. It wasn’t until people started to ask if they could buy the meat that gears in my head start to roll.
I started with a simple but enhanced recipe of Duck Prosciutto that was inspired by my late friend and sent it off to friends who wanted some. As this was during COVID, I drove to everyone’s home and personally delivered every pack to each person. It was exhilarating to see friends enjoy it in all the different ways that they have. I even got to meet new people through this. This was when I realized that I could definitely do something more with this hobby.
What did you find most challenging about the process?
Due to the pandemic, everyone around me and on social media was trying to start a new business around the same time. However, most of these people were starting bakeries. It had dawned on me that the hardest part of this business was the amount of time investment that I needed for this to work. Unlike bakeries, it wasn’t about “How many cakes can I make in a day?”, the question became “How many days does it take for me to make one cake?”
The business of charcuterie is all about patience and timing. Some pieces can take up to 8 months to be ready while others only require just a few weeks. I had to focus on what I would want to actually sell to people. At this time, I had just procured a small kitchen space with the help of an old friend, and I was itching to see what I could show off to people. I had experimented so much with flavours that I can happily say that I know that some flavours just do not work at all for ham. But thanks to this experimentation, I was able to set a foundation for where I am today, where I know what works and what doesn’t.
Tell us about your new venue.
The original space for the kitchen was, honestly, quite drab. I did know that I wanted to expand and take on a larger space but the original bare shell was an eyesore and a half. I could not imagine spending more than an hour in there without resorting to pulling my hair out. I set out to renovate the space with the help of a trusted friend with a vision: I wanted to be able to entertain people and do tastings here. I want guests to feel at home here while also providing myself with a clean space to work and grow my business.
In the future, I want to be able to start using this place as a place to experiment with “ham omakase” with different kinds of meats and vegetables ranging from smoked radishes all the way to cured lamb prosciutto. It is definitely going to be an uphill journey but this has to be a career and not a job for me. With this space, I can definitely see that happening.
With the benefit of hindsight, what’s one piece of advice you wish you’d been given at the beginning of this journey?
I started this journey by pinching every penny to make sure that the business would be financially viable. I met a lot of people during this journey who have given me a lot of insight and some who are still helping me to this day.
Having come from luxury service to F&B, there were a lot of things that I didn’t know but I went in with an open mind and talked to a variety of people to get their opinion and feedback. I met with food experts, F&B owners, F&B consultants, potential investors, investment professionals, and even local celebrities. All of them provided me with a vast sum of knowledge that I don’t think I would have been able to acquire by myself and that gave me a well-rounded look at where I was at and where I wanted to head toward.
Are you still active as The Love Consultant?
I am currently still working as The Love Consultant in Hong Kong but I may be drawing more of my focus into The Meat Consultant. TLC (The Love Consultant) has always been a passion of mine and I don’t think I’ll ever stop it. I’ve been blessed to have amazing clients and to help them achieve their own goals. I may just have reduced capacity for taking in new clients but I’ll still keep at it. The only thing that may change is that I may want to focus a bit more on the male gay dating scene a bit more. So, if you’re single and gay, you know who to call.
What do your two businesses have in common?
They are similar in the aspects that I try to focus on getting the best of the best for both. For TLC, I focus on helping clients become the best versions of themselves so they can navigate the single landscape. For TMC, I focus on sourcing the best meats and the best flavours for an experience that you can’t get anywhere else. Both businesses require passion for making sure that the people and the charcuterie stand head and shoulders above the competition and I’ll do whatever it takes to get there.
Header image courtesy of Kelsey Chance on Unsplash.