Photo Courtesy of Brian Goldberg
Mr. Bing is a food cart and catering company that just won the ” 2016 Rookie of the Year” Vendy Award in September. The Vendy Awards are the annual “best of the best” street food competition series held in NYC, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Brian Goldberg, Founder of Mr. Bing, is an accomplished individual with the most diverse and interesting CV you will read! Brian has studied and lived in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Manhattan. He speaks fluent Chinese and conversational Spanish and he qualified for the 2002 Olympics in the Luge event for Israel. He competes in masters swimming, has worked in the Finance, TV and Film industries, and now is the Founder of Mr. Bing. Whew…that was a mouth full! On a rainy Friday in September, Brian introduced me to a “bing” and I am forever hooked.
What is a “jianbing” and where did you first learn about this type of food?
Jianbing’s are savory crepes from Northern China bought from street cart vendors. While pursuing my undergraduate degree at Brandeis University, I enrolled in a summer semester program in Harbin (‘98), a village located 1,200 kilometres Northeast of Beijing and a fall semester in Beijing. It was total immersion in the chinese culture. If you were caught speaking english three times, you were out. Before class each morning in Beijing, we had to memorize 10-40 chinese characters. My classmates and I would grab a “jianbing” from the cart outside our dorm to eat while studying our characters. I fell in love with them the minute I ate one.
When I was back in the States, my friends and I would gather together, reminisce about jianbings and try to recreate the crepe we all grew to love. Chinese folklore has several stories about the origin of the jianbing. One describes how the chinese soldiers lost their woks and used their shields to cook their daily meals. The other story depicts a man in prison 600 years ago whose wife would bring sheets of paper and a pen during her daily visits. Since the food was horrible, one day she snuck a jianbing in the paper and slid it under the door.
Mr. Bing is a food cart and catering business in Manhattan. You have one pop-up stand currently with Urban Space serving three locations in the fall (Madison Square Eats, Broadway Bites, and Bryant Park Holiday Markets). Why did you start out as a pop-up versus a brick’n’mortar shop?
I had opened a jianbing shop while working in finance in Hong Kong. I was working full-time in finance while operating the shop during my “free” time. Life was crazy and we expanded too quickly opening a second shop in a location that was not ideal. We learned a lot during this time. The pace I was going was not sustainable. We closed operations. I moved back to Manhattan and took some time off. It was a hard time but it gave me time to reflect and figure out my next moves.
I decided to test the Manhattan market by opening a pop-up as there is minimal capital investment required at the start. Currently we have one pop-up stand with Urban Space operating at Madison Square Eats for 6 weeks in September/October, followed by another couple of weeks at Broadway Bites, and lastly, finishing the year at the Bryant Park Holiday Market. We have to be creative and resourceful in how we stock our kiosk as Urban Space has restrictions in terms of the amount of space each vendor can utilize. Fortunately I have met two mentors and business partners in NYC who have provided their expertise, resources, and extra kitchen space for our use while we launch the business. Lou Ramirez, (Eric Kayser Bakery USA, Fig & Olive, Pain Quotidien) and Gadi Peleg (Breads Bakery) have been instrumental in helping to bring Mr. Bing to the Manhattan marketplace.
Do you have any plans to expand to additional kiosks or settle into a permanent location?
Yes! We are in the process of signing a lease for our 1st brick’n’mortor location in Chelsea. It is exciting for us as this location will be our home base. My philosophy is to operate in a hub & spoke structure with Chelsea being our main hub. We are currently in negotiations for another satellite location to be announced soon.
What are some lessons learned from your experience in Hong Kong?
Take the time to test the market, product and business plan. We opened a second location and it did not pan out. We learned a lot from this failure. I was ready for a change at this point in my life. Finance was interesting and rewarding from a financial and business standpoint but I felt something was missing. I wanted to be remembered for creating a product and brand that made people happy. I kept coming back to jianbings. I decided this was where my heart was at and in order to make my dream a reality, it required 100% of my time and effort, thus Mr. Bing was born.
You studied at Columbia for your Master’s degree. Did you develop your business plan while at Columbia?
Yes, I took one business class while obtaining my Masters degree at Columbia and it was during this class I drafted my 1st cut at Mr. Bing. After 10 years, I picked up my dusty business plan and brought it back to life. Columbia has been very supportive of Mr. Bing and I continue to support the Entrepreneurship Program.
You qualified for the Luge event representing Israel in the 2002 Olympics. What other athletic events are you training for and what is on your bucket list?
I have competed in the Round the Sound Swim in Bermuda and I hope to again this year. The other swim event on my list is the Fina Masters World Championships in Budapest in 2017.
What is your favorite savory and sweet crepe? What is the most popular bing at Mr. Bing?
The vegetarian bing for savory and Nutella for sweet. The Peking Duck is our most popular bing.
How large is the catering aspect of the business?
There are two types of catering businesses. One is premium delivery, delivering individual orders of premade bings for customers. The other business is performance catering bringing equipment to a location and cooking for a group on premise. It is more of an experiential dinner event. Mr. Bing is busy from both aspects of the catering business. If you have an event you want us to cater, send us an email @http://www.mr-bing.com/contact/.
If you want a “bing” you can find Mr. Bing at the Bryant Park Winter Village open 11am – 9 pm daily until January 2nd. New locations in 2017 are:
Late January – Urbanspace Vanderbilt Food Hall (45th & Vanderbilt)
Early February – Our 1st brick’n’mortor shop in Chelsea at 28th & 7th
Spring 2017 – Mobile cart in Madison Square Park at 25th & Broadway.
On a personal note from Moira McCullough….I learned what a small world we really live in. I am a Masters swimmer and during my conversation with Brian we realized we both competed in the Round the Sound Swim in Bermuda in October 2015. Then as we discussed Brian’s experience studying abroad in Harbin, I mentioned my brother, Chris, also studied in Harbin. It turns out they were classmates! You just never know who you are going to meet in life, do you?