Chef Ming Tsai on a Mission to Do Good with His New Plant-Based Patties
In 2017, TV personality and restaurateur Chef Ming Tsai and his family received the world-shaking news that his wife, Polly, had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. While they explored medical treatment options at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Polly made the life-changing decision to transition to a strict vegan diet with the hope of lowering inflammation by using food as medicine. In the midst of supporting his wife’s cancer battle, raising two kids, and running a restaurant, Tsai did what he does best: cook.
But, as he dove into this new world of cooking all plant-based food, he found that there was a lack of healthy fast, savory meal replacements. “I was quickly disappointed by the variety and quality of the options on the market,” Tsai told The Beet in an interview. “It was in that moment that I recognized a new mission. While I created plant-based meal options to help Polly heal, I also realized there were likely many more people out there like her who were possibly making the same changes.”
As Polly improved, Tsai advanced the journey to help other people seeking a plant-based diet find vegan alternatives that not only nurtured the body but were also delicious. After many vegan meals, late-nights experimenting in the kitchen with his wife and kids by his side, MingsBings was born. The first MingsBings debuting product, a veggie-filled wrap-meets-patty, launched at the end of 2020. The wrap is packed with eight nutrient-dense superfoods, including edamame, watercress, shiitake mushrooms, red onion, garlic, ginger, and pepitas all wrapped up in a gluten-free brown rice wrapper. They come frozen, in a pack of two, ready to easily heat up and devour. The savory alliance of vegetables, enclosed in a perfectly light and flakey gluten-free wapper, is a plant-based dream come true. Straddling a wrap and patty—with no shortage of ways to eat is—no matter what you call it, MingsBings stands in a category of its own.
Currently, you can find MingsBings on the company’s website, and at Dave’s Fresh Market in Rhode Island. This is just the beginning for MingsBings as the company is ramping up expanding into retail locations over the next few months. (And, the best way to get MingsBings in your local grocery store sooner than later, is to ask your local grocery manager to carry them.)
MingBings Gives a Portion of Profits to Charity
Upon the inception of MingsBings, Tsai knew that beyond providing a healthy meal option, he wanted to give back. That’s why MingsBings contributes a share of its profits to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Family Reach, an organization focused on alleviating the financial strain of a cancer diagnosis for families.
“‘Hao Ren Hao Bao’ is a Chinese phrase that translates to something along the lines of, ‘good things happen to good people,’” says Tsai. “My grandfather said it first, then my dad, and now I continue to pass it on to my kids. It’s a phrase that we’ve all carried with us.” You are as good as the work you put out, Tsai explains, and you can only expect to get back what you put out into the world. “I don’t do what I do for a reward. I’m doing it because it makes me feel good to my core to make a difference, I’m so lucky to have a platform to be able to give back. Like Jose Andres and Guy Fieri, we all have the platform and ability to give back so why not use it for good?”
Tsai’s drive to do good is infectious; he’s launched or participated in a dozen of give-back initiatives throughout his career. He reminds though that anyone can open a door for someone else or send a smile or buy a coffee for the person in front of you, that costs nothing or almost nothing, smiles are in fact free.” For example, Tsai took giving to the next level recently on Giving Tuesday after launching the #DingDongDitchRemix initiative. What started with Tsai doing pop-up meals and food donations for those in need, turned into a call for others to do the same. #DingDongDitchRemix was a call to leave food or household essentials on a loved one’s doorstep—for no other reason except to do some good.
Launching a Brand During a Pandemic
The community in Boston was devastated when Tsai’s acclaimed Blue Dragon restaurant went into hibernation as COVID-19 ravaged eateries. To help support the community, Tsai operated Blue Dragon as a food bank providing meals to restaurant employees through the LEE Initiative, but as many restaurant owners can relate, times are challenging and for now, Blue Dragon is in hibernation. For Tsai, MingsBings is a way to stay connected to food and community, and an expression of not only what he loves, but something deeply personal. While MingsBings was getting underway right before COVID hit, Tsai says the extra time allowed him to focus on perfecting MingsBings, and now continues to grow the right team members to get to market faster.
So what’s next for MingsBings? There are plans to expand the line this year, and rollout MingsBings in more retail locations. You can also catch Tsai on TikTok which is full of cooking tips you didn’t know you needed, from how to cleanly chop a bell pepper, to how to make a cast-iron pan look like new, and more. “We’ve also been continuing #DingDongDitchRemix, so if you’d like to spread kindness, let’s keep the kindness curve trending upward!” Tsai reminds.
We are also happy to report that Tsai’s wife, Polly, is doing well, and remains healthy.