Stephen Choy arrived in the sunny seaside town of Torquay, Devon back in 1987, aged just 17. Speaking little English and armed only with a strong determination to create a successful life for himself, he began his culinary career working as a kitchen hand at a Chinese restaurant owned by his uncle.
After several years of intense dedication and hard work, it became apparent that he had the skills to establish something of his own, and so he set off on a quest to land his very first takeaway premises. Borrowing money from every possible friend and family member who could help, he and his wife Sui eventually opened the doors of Mei Lai in Exmouth, in 1990. By this point there would not even be enough cash to fill a till float on his first day of trading – this was when the success of the Mei Lai story became more important than ever.
He needn’t have worried, however. His relentless drive and passion for his food meant that there was never a shortage of customers and he soon secured a new location in the holiday town of Dawlish in 1996. It is here that he flourished, finding the freedom to develop his unique recipes and cooking methods which he has continued to perfect for years to come. Today Mei Lai is well established as one of the finest Chinese takeaways in the South West.
Stephen now spends most of his time running the kitchen at Chi Restaurant, Kenton, with the team at Mei Lai led by his daughter Sophie and her partner James. Through extensive training and development, they are committed to providing high quality Chinese food and great service, without compromising on authenticity.