Yee scoops interest in cool ideas

Ice cream maker Yee Kwan
Ice cream maker Yee Kwan
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When you’re half a world away from friends and family, sometimes all you need is a little taste of home.

And growing numbers of the 5,000 Chinese students in Sheffield are finding it in a half-litre tub of Yee Kwan’s green tea ice cream.

Yee has taken a stall in the new Sheffield Moor market and sees a stream of “mainlanders” in search of a comfortingly familiar treat.

It’s a welcome boost to the business she set up four years ago, bringing Chinese and a host of Far Eastern flavours - including ginger, black sesame seed, lime and lemongrass - to the artisan ice cream market.

Today she sells 40 types to hundreds of restaurants and shops around the country including Harvey Nichols.

The influx of Far Eastern students has resulted in several new restaurants - Japanese, Chinese and Korean - opening in the city centre selling her products. And there’s even a magazine entirely in Mandarin - which Yee writes a column for.

She says: “I write about what I have been doing, restaurants I’ve been to and family activities. I can relate to them because of my Chinese heritage, although I was born in Sheffield.”

Her father came to England in the 1960s and worked as a chef. After he married her mum they lived in Belfast for a time but moved to Sheffield to get away from the troubles.

They opened a Chinese takeaway on Infirmary Road and ran it for 20 years and in that time had six children, five girls and a boy.

Yee said: “I’m number four, my brother is number five. It’s really important in the Chinese tradition to have a boy.

“They worked really hard in the takeway and instilled in us all the value of education.”

Yee’s mum died 11 years ago and her dad died of cancer just before Christmas.

She added: “He saw my success. He would never tell us to our faces, that’s kind of how it is with the older generation. But I would always hear him telling his friends about it. It was really sweet to hear that.”

But Yee, who is now 37, married to Anthony and a mum-of-two, didn’t always hanker after a career in food.

After ‘A’ levels she became a chartered surveyor, a job she did for eight years.

Three months after returning from maternity leave she was made redundant. It changed the course of her 
life forever - and for the better.

She added: “I studied surveying and it was so boring, it didn’t come naturally. Now being in business is so much fun.”

Yee Kwan’s ice cream could be on sale in Waitrose supermarkets this year - she’s in talks with their buyers - and a chain of prestigious London restaurants.

She’s also collaborating with a Malaysian celebrity chef on new ice cream flavours and she’s launched a green tea flavoured cheesecake.

She wants to franchise the retail outlet and even open a production facility and sell in China.

The five-strong company based on Wellington Street, is also aiming to hire a production manager.