Yang Bing-yi, the founder of famous dumpling empire Din Tai Fung, "passed away peacefully" at the age of 96, according to a statement from the company. Yang leaves behind over 170 restaurant locations spanning 13 countries.
Born in China's Shanxi province in 1927, Yang immigrated to Taiwan at 20 years old at the height of China's Civil War with nothing but $20 in his pocket and a dream. With the help of his wife (pictured below), the dynamic duo opened up a shop in Taiwan selling cooking oils in one half of the store while the other half of the store was dedicated to making and selling Xiao Long Bao — soup dumplings made with steamed pork. The name of the shop? Din Tai Fung.
What started as a small operation blew up seemingly overnight and soon, Din Tai Fung ditched cooking oil sales and became a full-fledged restaurant in 1972, heeding the advice of a close friend who advised the couple to make the switch when tinned oils became popular and threatened to run them out of business. Din Tai Fung's Hong Kong location was awarded a Michelin star in 2009, where it remains to this day. The New York Times named the original Din Tai Fung one of the best restaurants in the world in 1993.
Din Tai Fung made its first state-side appearance back in 2000 when the Arcadia, California location broke ground and brought the restaurant's signature flavor profiles to eager Americans. "... [This] 6-month-old restaurant, housed in an Arcadia mini-mall, would seem to define dumpling frenzy,” wrote New York Times critic S. Irene Virbila. Jonathan Gold, the late, legendary food critic for the Los Angeles Times, called the dumplings "small miracles" in his 2013 review.
According to the Din Tai Fung website, selling soup dumplings was never in the original business plan. It was simply Yang's Plan B.
What a Plan B to execute.