Interview with Bella Napoli's Laimei Yeung Esposito

On helping families stay healthy

by Abbie Pumarejo | Tue, March 07, 2017

If you're a foodie, you've probably seen Laimei Yeung Esposito out and about--either buzzing around her and her husband's popular Italian restaurant, Bella Napoli, hosting nutrition seminars, or on your WeChat feed. Needless to say, she's a busy lady. And she's about to be even busier with the debut of her new healthy eating guide, Healthy Families (available via www.laimeiyeung.com). We sat down and chatted with Laimei about her new booklet and on being an F&B family in Shanghai.

 

SF: Did you always plan to own a restaurant and work with food?

LYE: Originally I am from Belgium and actually came to China 12 years ago to work in business and marketing. I’m a Sinologist and majored in Chinese and got another MA in Marketing. While my father was a chef, I did not plan to make a career of it, even though my family has always been involved with food.

 

SF: How did you end up working with your husband?

LYE: My husband has been in the food and beverage industry for 25 years, working with five-star hotels. His dream was to own his own restaurant. So ten years ago, he founded Bella Napoli with a partner. The first restaurant, on Xikang Lu, was extremely small. Ten years ago Chinese people were not eating Italian food so we only had foreign expat clients at the time.

 

SF: When did you decide to become a Health and Nutrition Coach?

LYE: 3 years ago, I was working 14 hours a day, at times with double shifts. At the time, it was a normal way of life and I kept also doing sports, but was more and more exhausted. It came to the point that one day I could not get out of bed. In this business, you need a lot of energy and I just didn’t have it anymore! I went to all kinds of doctors and eventually fournd out I was pre-diabetic and had Fibromyalgia. My immune system was completely off kilter. I decided to go back to school and learn about food. I became a Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach.

 

SF: What project are you working on currently?

LYE: Recently I have just written and published our first healthy eating guide, entitled Healthy Families. We love people and we love food. Being able to bring the community together, in the name of good food and as families is what we are passionate about. It has some great family recipes along with information about nutrition and activities, movement and mental well-being. It is a holistic guide for families who want to enjoy a healthy life with contributions of other professionals in their field.

SF: Why a healthy eating guide?

LYE: Now that I am a Nutrition and Health Coach and expert in Energy Management, I wanted to bring that information to our families at the restaurant. It is still a traditional Italian restaurant, but this guide, sponsored by a health insurance firm is not only about the food. It’s about eating homemade, real food with the family, and enjoying that time together. We wrote this booklet to teach people how to have better health through food and lifestyle. It’s a combination of everything-taking this holistic approach to health-with families as our target audience.

 

SF: Did you encounter any challenges when writing the booklet?

LYE: It’s very difficult, as there can be lots of conflicting information. I wanted to make it useful for people. I am a proponent of the 80/20 lifestyle. Eighty percent of the time, eat healthily and the other twenty percent, go out and eat your ice cream! I don’t like extremes or to mandate that to my clients.

 

SF: Do you find time to spend together and eat a meal as a family?

LYE: In this business, it is a given that you sacrifice your life-on the weekends and holidays you are working. You are always there (at the restaurant). It’s all hands on deck as we have 500 customers per day. Forty percent of our customers are familes, and we love bringing people together. However, we try to eat at home. I do a lot of coaching with clients but am in the restaurant two days a week. Monday through Friday my husband tries to come home for dinner and on Saturday the kids come to our restaurant, as we also do the pizza making sessions with our customers’ kids. Sunday we are at home, it’s our family day.

 

The Last Word

Favorite recipe in the booklet: My Auntie’s Brownies (see below)

Favorite dish to cook for your family: Chicken breasts with skin on-grilled in the oven with lemon sauce and a lot of veggies

Three things you can’t live without: Love, chocolate, laughter

Next place on your travel wish list: Laos

Favorite family restaurant in Shanghai (other than Bella Napoli): Din Tai Feng

 

This is one of my favorite recipes in Healthy Families and it's from my Belgian Auntie. She loves to cook and even at 75, she is still in the kitchen, cooking so passionately. I am just inspired by her.