Chef José Andrés is opening Beefsteak, a vegetable-focused restaurant, on George Washington University’s campus
Forget reheated pizza and ramen. Jose Andres has got GWU students covered.
All of you college students out there who are trying to choose between the bland salad bar and the mystery meat special, read this and weep. James Beard Award-winning chef José Andrés has opened up Beefsteak, a vegetable-focused casual restaurant concept, on George Washington University’s campus. If you’re wondering why Andrés has not come to your university campus, he already has a relationship with GWU: he spoke at last year’s commencement ceremony, and teaches a class there.
“The younger generations want more from our food industry. They want more transparency and better quality food,” chef Andrés told The Daily Meal. “They want food that they can feel good about eating and that they can reasonably enjoy during their busy and chaotic lives. Most importantly, judging by early success, they want more vegetables. And they deserve that — all of it. Beefsteak is my answer to their demands.”
Beefsteak is basically the Chipotle of super-healthy fast casual concepts. All bowls start at $7.99, and feature a combination of in-season, farm-fresh vegetables, healthy grains like quinoa or whole grain rice, house-made sauces like cilantro, spicy tomato or garlic yogurt, as well as other heartier toppings like cheese, chicken, salmon, eggs and chickpeas. Students will also be able to order wine and craft beer from Flying Dog and Dogfish Head. A second Beefsteak location will open this summer in D.C. in Dupont Circle.
The 40/40 List
Everyone's always looking for the next big thing. It's true in pop culture, it's true in the stock market, and it's true in the technology sector.
And it's especially true in the limited-service restaurant industry. With the success of brands like Panera Bread, Chipotle, and Sweetgreen, industry watchers and fans alike are ready to pounce on the next brand that wows guests and investors and rides that momentum to monumental success.
With this inaugural 40/40 List, we'd like to offer our stamp of approval for those brands we think stand the best shot at becoming the next big thing. Consider this our 40 under 40—40 brands with fewer than 40 units—that homes in specifically on fast casual 2.0, that explosive industry category that bridges the gap between traditional fast-casual and casual-dining sectors.
What separates fast casual 2.0 from the rest of the fast-casual industry? There were several characteristics we considered as we narrowed down this list. Fast casual 2.0 concepts are committed to: chef-driven menus and/or signature menu items premium hospitality a focus on experience rather than value enhanced beverage programs, often including alcohol high-quality and/or local, healthy ingredients ambitions other than growth and profit being cornerstones in their community embracing peers through collaboration entrepreneurship and innovation and long-term relationships with stakeholders.
Is there a science to picking the next big thing in the restaurant industry? No. Nothing is a guarantee. But by evaluating unit count, expansion rate, buzz-worthiness, brand niches, and our general gut feeling, we think these 40 restaurant concepts—as described here by QSR editorial staff Sam Oches, Nicole Duncan, Danny Klein, and Alex Dixon—are the best bets out there today.
TIER ONE / The runaway trains
Sandwich concepts don't usually do 40 percent of their business during the dinner daypart. Sandwich concepts don't usually build out 3,000-square-foot spaces. Sandwich concepts don't usually do over $3 million in average unit volume (or $2 million, or $1 million).
HQ: Washington, D.C. Units: 22
Michael Lastoria is walking through Washington, D.C.'s first micro-hotel. He's about to hit a milestone of sorts—the brand's 20th opening—and he couldn't have picked a more fitting backdrop than the forthcoming Hotel Hive. The nation's capital has never seen anything quite like it. The rooms are small, the design hip. It's a space showcasing the affordable side of luxury.
There's an anecdote from cofounder Anthony Pigliacampo that perhaps does the best job of explaining Modern Market's story. During a recent training session, he says, a future staff member shared an epiphany. "She was like, 'I can't believe you actually make this much of your food from scratch,'" Pigliacampo says. "I said, 'Well, it is on our website.'"
Relationships with local farmers and a focus on ingredients has been a driving force for Tender Greens since it started 11 years ago. Formed out of founders Erik Oberholtzer, David Dressler, and Matt Lyman's experience in fine dining, the brand has an executive chef at each location to oversee what it calls "slow food done fast."
For a concept that has grown to 35 locations in two states—and one that plans to open 18 new stores this year alone—it's hard to believe it took five years before Luna Grill even opened its second restaurant. But that was the case for this San Diego–based fast casual 2.0 brand, which launched in 2004 and waited until 2009 before opening the doors to store No. 2.
HQ: New York City Units: 27
The premium, shellfish-centric menu at Luke's Lobster easily puts it in the elite fast casual 2.0 category, but the brand's origin story is even more compelling. Maine native Luke Holden was working as an investment banker in New York City when the subpar quality and high prices of local lobster rolls inspired him to disrupt the market. Holden tapped into his contacts within the tight-knit community of fishermen in Maine his father used to own a shellfish-processing plant, and Holden himself had spent childhood summers lobstering.
HQ: Pasadena, California Units: 21
Better-burger concepts populate much of the fast casual 2.0 space. The same cannot be said for sister cuisine hot dogs, which at best play a supporting role in premium burger restaurants. André Vener, Hagop Giragossian, and Quasim Riaz took note of this disparity, and in 2010 the partners opened the first Dog Haus in Pasadena, California. Within the first six months, the store had become profitable, and growth has been compounding ever since.
HQ: Washington, D.C. Units: 28
Many retail concepts play it safe with expansion, growing first into nearby markets before moving outward in concentric circles to other cities and states. But not Cava Grill. The Mediterranean-based fast casual 2.0 was so confident in its brand that it leaped the entire country for its second market, making Los Angeles its first home away from its Washington, D.C., headquarters.
Originally billed as "California comfort food," Lemonade is tweaking its motto—if not its foundation—in anticipation of a much larger footprint. The Los Angeles–based brand now considers itself a destination for seasonal food and refreshments.
Twisted is an apt description for the Texas-based burger brand started in 2006. Offering build-your-own and specialty versions of the classic limited-service dish, Twisted Root Burger Company emphasizes the customer experience in a market chock-full of other burger concepts.
TIER TWO / On the cusp of greatness
HQ: New York City Units: 15
Farm to table has become something of a standard restaurant descriptor these days, but Dig Inn considers itself the leader in "farm to counter." At this New York–based concept, local, seasonal fare is celebrated with a menu of market plates, salads, and sandwiches featuring naturally raised meats, and a variety of sides that change with the seasons.
By all arguments, burgers are the pillar upon which family-friendly limited service was built. Hopdoddy Burger Bar, however, is not catering to the kiddies. Yes, the Texas-based concept slings shakes, burgers, and fries, but the menu and the atmosphere are decidedly grown-up.
HQ: Kansas City, Missouri Units: 17
In the past two years, SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza has embarked on a growth experiment. Training experienced staff to take the helm of new locations, the brand, which started in 2005 in the greater Kansas City area, opened 10 units, more than doubling its footprint. The company spread out its influence as well, opening a store in the San Francisco Bay Area, four in Dallas, three in Kansas City, one on the University of Central Missouri campus, and another in Lawrence, Kansas—home of the University of Kansas. Two more restaurants, in Kansas City and Omaha, Nebraska, are under construction.
Homegrown Sustainable Sandwiches
Social entrepreneurship finds a home in the limited-service industry at Homegrown Sustainable Sandwiches, a Seattle-based sandwich concept that has expanded to 10 locations in the Pacific Northwest and three in California's Bay Area.
HQ: Columbus, Ohio Units: 11
Brothers Zach and Josh Weprin, along with childhood friend Stephan Harman, were spending their post-college years working at a ski resort in Aspen, Colorado, when they had an idea: What if they opened a sushi restaurant that was easily accessible to everyone?
When Colorado-based Larkburger announced that Todd Coerver was joining the brand as CEO in September, leaving his post at 170-plus-unit Taco Cabana, the writing on the wall became legible. The 10-year-old, locally revered better-burger chain was ready for primetime.
Since Honeygrow's founding in Philadelphia less than five years ago, growth has been aggressive. The brand, which focuses on wholesome eating through stirfries and salads, has built 16 stores since 2012 and still turns down the vast majority of opportunities evaluated, says founder Justin Rosenberg.
HQ: San Francisco Units: 10
As one of 11 concepts within the portfolio of Back of the House Inc., a San Francisco–based hospitality company, Super Duper Burgers leverages resources shared across a team of expert restaurateurs.
Back of the House was started by Adriano Paganini, a chef who built up the Pasta Pomodoro chain of casual Italian restaurant restaurants in the '90s and early 2000s before exiting the business in 2009 and opting to explore new concept development. That first led to two full-service eateries and then to Super Duper.
HQ: New York City Units: 13
Dos Toros founders and brothers Leo and Oliver Kremer wanted to bring the tastes of northern California to New York City when they opened the concept in 2009. And customers responded the brand has opened 13 locations in New York, with a Chicago location coming soon.
Since its founding in 2006, Fresh To Order has stressed steady growth dictated by the right partnerships. That's the case with both its sourcing partners—the brand looks to several regional suppliers for the ingredients that make up its plates, sandwiches, salads, and burgers—and its franchise partners.
TIER THREE / The pieces are all there
HQ: Portland, Oregon Units: 10
As cofounder Matt Brown puts it, Bunk was started by "three indie-rock dudes" who didn't have a dime. Brown and partners Nick Wood and Tommy Habetz quit the fine-dining eatery where they worked in Portland, Oregon, and opted to open a sandwich concept set to a backdrop of rock music.
Chef Habetz, who worked at Mario Batali's Pó in New York City, gives the brand serious food chops. Sandwiches include the Vietnamese Pork and Shrimp Meatball Bahn Mi, the Pork Belly Cubano, and the Oregon Albacore Tuna Melt. There are regular specials, a range of sides, and beer, soda, juice, tea, and coffee.
Since starting in 2008, Bunk has grown to five brick-and-mortar units in Portland and five stands in sport arenas. As for future locations, Brown says, it would be "ridiculous to spout a number," but he adds that the leaders are negotiating a lot right now, including exploring a New York City location to replace the recently closed Brooklyn venue.
Many brands tout transparency in their menus and mission statements. But it would be hard to find a restaurant more ingrained in that ethos than Clover Food Lab, a vegetarian concept housed in food trucks and brick-and-mortar stores throughout the Boston area. There's the recipe development process that's open to the public and the fact that the brand sources its ingredients regionally. The company's founder, MIT material science graduate and Harvard MBA Ayr Muir, will even tell guests about Clover's mistakes on its website, like the time he OK'd the wrong lighting fixture at a new location.
Clover isn't hiding behind red tape when it comes to future growth, either. Lucia Jazayeri, the company's director of communications, lightly says: "We want to be bigger than McDonald's some day." If so, there's no question we'll all have a front-row seat to enjoy the ride.
Graduating from college during the Great Recession, Hunter Pond did what many others his age did: He went back to college, hoping the job opportunities would reappear on the other side of a graduate degree. But in the midst of law school, Pond found himself daydreaming of becoming a restaurateur. He quit school, went to work as a dishwasher at a pizza joint, and started putting together a business plan.
"I started studying the market, and I thought that my best chance to succeed was if I identified a void in the marketplace and exploited it," he says. "It's what any good businessman does." That void, Pond discovered, was gourmet sandwiches. And after bootstrapping $450,000 from friends and family and designing the menu himself, Pond opened the first East Hampton near Southern Methodist University's campus in Dallas in 2012.
East Hampton's sandwich options are decidedly upscale, with options ranging from the Roast Chicken & Ranch and the Sweet Chicken Parm for $8.25 to the Balsamic Tenderloin and the Lobster Grilled Cheese for $12.95. Sides include potato salad and sweet potato fries, while there are also salads, chowders, desserts, and a kids' menu.
As for the name, Pond says he wanted to communicate to customers the high level of quality before they even walked in the door. He matched that level of quality with a store design that he says feels like someone's home kitchen.
"I like to describe it as a 50 percent better dining experience with a 15 percent higher price point," he says.
While all East Hampton growth has stayed in the Dallas-Fort Worth market so far, Pond hopes to expand to Austin, San Antonio, and Houston next, with Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., in the crosshairs. He envisions opening 50–75 units in the next five years, with all of the growth remaining corporate.
Like several young operations in the U.S., Chi'Lantro got its start as a food truck, hitting the streets of Austin in 2010 serving Korean barbecue and the cult favorite Original Kimchi Fries (fries topped with caramelized kimchi, cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses, onions, cilantro, "magic sauce," sesame seeds, sriracha, and a choice of five proteins).
But where many food trucks have failed to make the natural progression into brick and mortar, Chi'Lantro has thrived as an Austin-based mini-chain that is now ready to take on the rest of Texas—and the rest of the world.
"Our vision is to be the leading fast-casual Korean barbecue brand in the world," says founder and CEO Jae Kim. "We inspire the way people eat, think about, and experience Korean barbecue."
The company does that through its diverse menu, which includes bowls, salads, burgers, tacos, and burritos—all of it with a guest's choice of protein and add-ons like guacamole, kimchi, and queso—as well as Korean-fried chicken wings and shareable starters.
Last year, Kim was featured on the popular ABC show "Shark Tank" and scored a $600,000 investment from real estate mogul and show regular Barbara Corcoran in return for 20 percent equity. He hopes to turn that investment into a launching-off point that will lead to Chi'Lantro becoming a household name across the country and a billion-dollar brand.
HQ: Boulder, Colorado Units: 7
Expectations are understandably high for Pizzeria Locale. Not only is the restaurant operated by Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, a James Beard Award winner, but it is also backed by the big daddy of fast casual itself: Chipotle.
When Mackinnon-Patterson and Bobby Stuckey opened Frasca Food & Wine in 2004 in Boulder, Colorado, Chipotle founder Steve Ells was a regular guest. He would even step into the kitchen and cook on occasion. With Ells' help, a partnership was formed and the team devised a plan to turn the full-service Pizzeria Locale, which opened in 2011, into a fast-casual operation. They simplified the menu and leaned on Chipotle's backbone: high-quality ingredients delivered quickly.
The Southern Italy–inspired pizza is cooked in a 900 F oven in two minutes. Pizzeria Locale has since expanded to two Denver locations, two in Kansas, one in Missouri, and two in Ohio. And the founders hope it's just the beginning.
"Pizzeria Locale has had steady growth to this point," Mackinnon-Patterson says. "Our focus has always been and will always be on quality versus quantity. We are continually fine-tuning and striving to improve all aspects of the guest experience, and know that focusing on our guests is the recipe for long-term success."
HQ: Washington, D.C. Units: 16
At Taylor Gourmet, it's all about the hoagie. Inspired by the authentic versions served in his hometown of Philadelphia, cofounder Casey Patten has grown the brand to 16 units in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area.
Patten says the brand's approach to food has set it apart from other sandwich competitors Taylor Gourmet's staff does everything from roast turkey and braise pork to create stocks and risotto in-house every day. He adds that those employees are the key to growth going forward, as they provide the backbone to a great customer experience at all of the locations.
"This business is all about people, and having amazing people in our family is the most important part to us," he says.
HQ: Huntington Beach, California Units: 8
Slapfish founder and CEO Andrew Gruel is on a mission to overcome widespread misconceptions about seafood.
"There is a lot of misinformation regarding how much to eat and what to eat, but in the end, a lot of this is alarmist and built to generate headlines to sell ads," Gruel says. "We need to eat more seafood. We are getting people to do so by offering them the quality of finer dining at the cost and convenience of faster food we are redefining seafood."
With a focus on sustainability, Slapfish offers a new take on familiar dishes, like the "Clobster" Grilled Cheese with crab, lobster, cabbage, and "awesome sauce."
While Slapfish now has eight units, Gruel says that in the next five years he envisions growing the brand through franchising to 100 locations, which will all showcase a constantly changing menu of well-managed seafood.
Spencer Rubin opened the first Melt Shop location on his 25th birthday in 2011, and since then the sandwich concept has grown to four locations in Manhattan and four mall locations beyond the Big Apple—including one in the Mall of America.
Given the name, guests might mistakenly assume the Melt Shop is a one-trick pony, doling out only a few varieties of grilled cheese. Premium cheeses (think aged cheddar, gruyère, and muenster) are a big part of each sandwich, but the offerings go far beyond the classic rendition. The Buffalo features fried chicken, pepper jack, and blue cheese buffalo sauce, while The Big Skinny combines mozzarella, grilled mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, red peppers, and arugula with sherry vinaigrette.
Hearty salads, soups, and fries round out the savory items, and milkshakes—a must in many fast-casual joints—find a home on the menu, with funky flavors like Nutella and chocolate truffle.
First opened as a counter-service spinoff of what was one of the only Cambodian restaurants in New York, Num Pang has grown using what cofounder Ben Daitz calls "gut instinct."
But with eight units and more planned, the brand—which dishes Cambodia-inspired sandwiches, bowls, salads, and sides—has stepped away from that approach and relied more on analytics. Num Pang opened its first location outside New York at the Prudential Center in Boston, and while Daitz says that sustaining a high level of consistency in multiple markets will be challenging, he believes the team is ready.
"We blend the bold flavors of Southeast Asia and urban culture together into an impeccably executed and memorable experience, in a comfortable and vibrant environment," Daitz says. "To date, I don't see anyone else doing that."
Nothing about Urban Plates comes without calculation. Founder and CEO Saad Nadhir, who was a principal in the early development of quick-service giant Boston Market, conducted extensive consumer research when mapping out the future. After all, it was research that first sparked the idea for the brand.
"My partner and I studied American and even global food trends in 2010, and concluded that offering a more wholesome menu in a fast-casual format would be enthusiastically received by consumers," Nadhir says.
What started as one restaurant in Del Mar, California, has since grown to 11 units throughout the state, from San Diego to Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Urban Plates, which is known for its open food line where guests can talk to chefs and customize their meals and nutritional needs, has its sights set on further West Coast expansion, as well as East Coast and Midwest locations.
As Tarka Indian Kitchen has grown in its home state of Texas, CEO and cofounder Tinku Saini has never failed to be surprised. He admits that's because he had no idea what to expect.
When the brand began in 2009 with a location in Austin, Saini says, he and his cofounders hoped they would make $1 million, perhaps even $1.25 million, in annual sales. The reality? Guests fell in love with the traditional Indian fare like curries, samosas, kabobs, and naan, and lines wrapped around the corner on day one. That store is well over $2 million in annual sales.
Now Tarka has four locations in the Lone Star State's capital city, as well as one in San Antonio. In 2017, Saini says, two Houston units will open, while another Austin store is scheduled for 2018. The plan is to double the footprint by the end of 2018 or early 2019. At that point, Saini will set the brand's trajectory to national.
"We believe we can get to hundreds of these units around the country, not to mention the world," he says. "Around the country, in every major metropolitan market, there's no reason why there can't be multiple stores."
For such humble beginnings (two brothers and their cousin hatching an idea to combine burgers and kebabs during a family cookout), Pincho Factory has bold plans. The Miami-born concept specializing in build-your-own pitas, bowls, and salads with a choice of pinchos (kebabs) is working toward 50 units in Florida and eventually around 500 nationwide.
"Guests are demanding more regional and authentic flavors. We have creatively combined burgers and kebabs and given it a Latin flavor. That has truly given us a competitive advantage, and the result has been an amazing brand loyalty factor," says cofounder and partner Otto Othman. He and
fellow cofounders Nedal and Nizar Ahmad opened the first restaurant in 2010—a feat that left Nedal Ahmad with less than $7 in his bank account—and now the brand could be on its way to Cinderella-like success.
In terms of brand recognition, Othman says it already has a cult-like following. When Pincho Factory removed its award-winning Croquetesa Burger, made with plantains, from the menu, a fan started a change.org petition to bring it back. "Our guests are diehard Pincho fans, and we love them," Othman says.
HQ: New York City Units: 10
With a focus on barbecue, Mighty Quinn's is bringing an underrepresented food style into urban markets through the fast casual 2.0 format.
"What sets us apart from similar formats is that fast-casual service is the foundation of real barbecue," says cofounder Micha Magid. "You want to see your meat sliced in front of you. We're not trying to force a trendy food category onto a service line."
The brand has seven locations in New York and New Jersey, and three franchised units in Asia, but the brand takes a measured approach to growth Magid says the team has passed on several growth opportunities. Still, focusing just on the New York City area has its challenges, and he says "too many brands are chasing the same real estate and customer base," which is driving up rent.
"This will take some time for the market to flush out, but we're patient and always opportunistic when the right deal presents itself," Magid says. "We plan on continuing to expand in our existing markets, and we'll make the jump to other regions when the time is right. Barbecue is so universally loved we're excited about where we can go next."
The first fast-casual restaurant in José Andrés' ThinkFoodGroup already has the cachet, but this veggie-centric brand also has the chops to drive its own success.
The first Beefsteak opened in Washington, D.C., two years ago and has since grown to four units in the greater D.C. area, along with one at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The brand has designs on a national presence, but first it's polishing the operation and figuring out its place in the fast-casual world. One restaurant is in a mall, another is on a college campus, and still another is in a hospital. This initial mix of locations is helping Beefsteak home in on its core audience segments, refine the concept, and think strategically about future growth, says executive chef Pat Peterson.
While many of Andrés' full-service concepts spotlight different countries and regions (from the Middle East and Spain to the Americas), Beefsteak is cuisine-agnostic and instead allows guests to build their own bowls or order chef-created salads, soups, sandwiches, and bowls.
"Our mission is to unleash the power of vegetables to bring 'good food, fast' to the world," Peterson says. "Beefsteak was an exciting opportunity to apply [our] experience to a new kind of fast casual, with chef-driven food at an affordable price point and in a fun and fresh environment."
Billed as "guiltin' free," The Little Beet was developed with Franklin Becker, a "Top Chef Masters" alum and former chef at such fine-dining establishments as New York's Brasserie. Having been diagnosed with diabetes is his 20s, Becker now focuses on the healthy side of cooking and opened the gluten-free fast casual in 2013. The concept later joined Aurify Brands, which counts Melt Shop and Fields Good Chicken among its portfolio (Becker is no longer affiliated with the brand).
The Little Beet now numbers six stores—four in Manhattan (including an outpost at the Pennsy food hall above Penn Station), one on Long Island, and one in Washington, D.C. It has also spun off a full-service sister concept, The Little Beet Table, with locations in New York and Chicago.
Eschewing the standard limited-service formula, The Little Beet has a menu built around plates wherein guests fill their plates with proteins like veggie patties, steak, and salmon, as well as warm sides (collard greens and kimchi among them) and cool sides (like chilled sesame broccoli). Everything—plates, bowls, rolls, soups, juices, and sauces—is gluten-free.
TIER FOUR / Just getting started
HipCityVeg's quality has taken precedence over its expansion. Since founder Nicole Marquis opened the doors in 2012, quality, consistency, and service have been paramount as the brand expanded to four locations (three in Philadelphia and one in Washington, D.C.).
These days, HipCityVeg, which promotes a plant-based diet with fresh, organic, and often local ingredients, has built a restaurant strong enough to confidently do both. Two of its locations opened in 2016, and there's a chance the footprint could double this year.
With a goal of bringing "aloha to more people's lives," Seattle-based Marination melds Hawaiian and Asian flavors with a diverse business model. The brand has one food truck, three fast-casual shops, and one full-service unit, in addition to operating a commissary kitchen and catering program that supports all locations.
Cofounder Roz Edison says the brand's growth has been "strategically opportunistic" by vetting opportunities for alignment with company culture, capacity, and capability. "We are not a cookie-cutter business with cloned locations, or an easily franchisable menu," Edison says. "We are a unique family of restaurant operations, and growth has to work within the diverse nature of our company."
Dish Society founder Aaron Lyons describes his fast casual 2.0 operation as a "$30 experience for $15," a destination for high-quality plated meals with the speed and convenience customers need in the midst of their busy lives.
The two-unit operation features a full bar, a chef-driven menu, and brunch service, but it also switches over to table service for the dinner daypart. This flex-casual model, Lyons says, gives the company an opportunity to maximize its real estate by offering a more robust dinner business.
A product of Cornell's Hospitality Management program and a veteran of esteemed fine-dining kitchens like Thomas Keller's The French Laundry, Charles Bililies wanted to bring authentic Greek food and wine to the masses in an upscale limited-service format.
Enter Souvla, the "fine-casual" restaurant he opened in San Francisco's Hayes Valley neighborhood in 2014 and has since grown to three locations in the Bay Area. Inspired by traditional souvlaki restaurants in Greece, the eatery serves naturally raised meats via rotisserie in fresh-baked pita bread, along with salads and Greek yogurt sauces. Souvla also offers frozen Greek yogurt and one of the strongest Greek wine lists in the entire U.S.
Bililies says he plans to keep Souvla's growth modest—no more than one to two per year—and that beyond San Francisco, he anticipates opening the brand in similarly iconic cities and neighborhoods.
Sisters Hannah and Marian Cheng left successful careers in finance and fashion, respectively, to start a dumpling restaurant that featured their mother's secret family recipes. Quality is top mind for the brand, which partners with local butchers and nearby farms to source organic, sustainable ingredients. Family is at the core of the menu, with each item including a short anecdote about its inspiration, from picking zucchini in a friend's garden to incorporating more veggies in their own diets during their father's vegetarian phase.
Mimi Cheng's now has two locations in Manhattan and is earning plenty of buzz—the sisters were even profiled by Vogue last fall.
José Andrés Opens a Fast-Casual Restaurant on a Lucky College Campus - Recipes
Find the Nearest Slapfish
Our goal at Slapfish is to get people to eat more seafood. There's a seafood deficiency in the U.S. If we can make it fun and sexy again, hopefully we can get people to eat more of it.
It's good for you, and it can be very sustainable.
It can be incredibly sustainable, and I think that people are afraid. There's a lot of sensationalism in the media about contaminated seafood ? mercury and this and that. It's scaring people away from eating seafood. We're trying to cut through the noise and bring people back to Real American Seafood.
Slapfish takes the fine dining mantra and puts it into a fast casual model. It was designed so that anyone can step in and run a seafood business. Featured on The Cooking Channel and voted OC Weekly's Best Seafood Restaurant, Slapfish offers socially responsible, chef-driven seafood recipes at affordable fast casual prices.
D.C.’s Best New Restaurants of 2018, According to the Experts
Local food writers pick their top newcomers of the year
My response= So many great new restaurants this year. St. Anselm, Poca Madre, Fancy Radish, Spoken English, Nama, Reverie, Gravitas, Ellē. I should probably stop, but I’m sure I’m forgetting some.
More: Yes, I did forget some. Most notably: Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly- a Filipino fast casual restaurant in Rockville. I also left out Call Your Mother- but that’s because I included it in two other responses.
All responses here.
A Movable Feast
Student loans and culinary aspirations have led two entrepreneurs to run illegal pop-up restaurants out of their dorms.
By Bethany Knickerbocker, Emerson College
Students x March 1, 2018
A Movable Feast
Student loans and culinary aspirations have led two entrepreneurs to run illegal pop-up restaurants out of their dorms.
By Bethany Knickerbocker, Emerson College
Are you sick of greasy dining-hall food but still spending a ton of your time on campus? A handful of pioneering students have cooked up their own solution to this problem.
While college living spaces are not traditionally used to house for-profit food establishments, two undergrads have taken the enterprising step of using their living quarters for more than sleeping and studying. By selling food that they’ve made right in their own kitchens, these culinary entrepreneurs have targeted the large, lucrative demographic of hungry college kids .
Anna Elder, a student at Central Georgia Technical College, is one semester away from completing her core classes a year early. After she finishes her basics, she has plans to apply for the CGTC Nursing Program in fall 2018 for a bachelor’s in nursing. After that, she plans to pursue a doctorate degree to become a neonatal anesthesiologist.
Right now, however, in addition to being a full-time student and having two jobs, Elder is selling her baked goods through her establishment, Itsy Bitsy Delights. Though she specializes in bite-sized desserts, she also makes regular-sized baked goods upon request.
Likewise, Jimmy Wong, a second-year at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, is pursuing a major in food science with a concentration in culinary.
Though it might seem odd to sell food that you make in your dorm, Elder and Wong are actually continuing a long tradition of students hawking their culinary creations to pay for tuition.
Insomnia Cookies, for example, began with a student baking cookies in his dorm room and delivering them to his peers the company now has over 100 locations nationwide, not to mention a bevy of spin-offs.
Plus, the business-plan makes sense: There are few better markets than the college campus, which is traditionally filled with thousands of overworked, time-strapped students and professors.
It doesn’t matter how many dining halls or meal plans a school offers: College students are bound to get bored of cafeteria cuisine sometime after the second week of freshman year.
While Wong always dreamed of opening up his own pop-up restaurant during college, Elder only decided to sell her baked goods after debt became an issue. Despite their different motivations and menu items, both students share a love for cooking that began in their youth and that they plan to continue, professionally or not.
I spoke with the two of them over the phone to pick their brains about food, school, balancing their businesses and what they love to cook for themselves.
Bethany Knickerbocker: When did you get into cooking?
Anna Elder: I remember baking from a very young age. I would always watch my family cooking and I loved the idea of creating new recipes. I grew up in a baking-oriented family. My grandmother used to cater events and my dad would help her. I was very lucky to have a tight-knit family and a stay-at-home mother to teach me how to bake and cook.
Jimmy Wong: Growing up, I always enjoyed eating my mom’s cooking, which spearheaded my interest in food. I would spend my time in her kitchen and constantly ask questions about her food. It wasn’t until high school, though, that I wanted to explore more of the restaurant world.
Luckily enough, the only restaurants that got back to me were the ones with Michelin stars. I spent the summer of my junior year preparing and plating dishes in the pastry kitchens at two different Michelin-starred restaurants, Plumed Horse and Chez TJ. My experiences there solidified my desire to pursue a career in the restaurant industry and my passion for cooking has only grown since.
BK: How did you develop your recipes while making your menu?
AE: A lot of my recipes come from my family or memory of watching family make them. For example, I watched my mother make coffee cake often, so it was embedded in my memory. Some of my recipes have come about through trial and error. I start off with a basic idea and each time I shift it until perfection.
JW: I try my best to work with produce that’s local, organic and sustainable, so my menus are largely driven by what’s in season and available to me here in San Luis Obispo. I’m lucky enough to be in California, where the produce is some of the best you can find in the country.
I create my dishes by first deciding on the flavor profiles I want to work with, then figuring out the components that will correspond with each flavor. I rely a lot on my cookbooks and past experiences in the kitchens I’ve worked in as resources.
BK: At what point did you first decide to monetize your food?
AE: It all started with people I’ve worked with or went to school with. I would always bring desserts to work or school, which led to people asking me to make them some. I didn’t fully start until had no choice, though. In fall 2017, my financial aid failed because I had to transition programs.
They were doing away with their health-care program, so I had to change into interdisciplinary studies. Unfortunately this meant I no longer qualified for the Zale Miller Grant or even half of what I originally did for Pale. I had to get creative and fast. At the time, my serving job only covered my actual bills and maybe a book or two, so I turned to what I knew best: baking.
Itsy Bitsy Delights has allowed me to take the minimum amount of student loans out, pay for my books and afford gas to get me to school.
JW: Coming into college, it was always on my college bucket list to do pop-up dinners. I figured it probably wasn’t the most sustainable thing to do if I was doing it for free, so I knew I needed to charge people for the amount of time and effort I was putting into doing the seven-course meals.
BK: How did you prepare for opening?
AE: I started off by making sure that I had the necessities, a lot of which my family has gotten me over the years. After I gathered my supplies, I began with my marketing. I contacted people that previously tried my desserts to help share the work, I created flyers through Microsoft publisher and I created my page.
This helped me better organize my orders and keep in contact with previous people that purchased baked goods.
JW: After completing a short stage, or apprenticeship, at Lazy Bear in San Francisco this past summer, I quickly decided that I wanted to open up a pop-up restaurant out of the studio apartment I had just moved into back at school. I spent the rest of the summer gathering flatware, glassware, silverware and other various service pieces to use for the pop-up.
I also spent a lot of time researching and figuring out a menu that I wanted to serve. I had to draw a lot on my time cooking for large events at my Asian American Christian Fellowship, as well as my training in the kitchens I worked at. In the end, I settled on a menu that I hoped exemplified who I was.
The menu was and is a collection of my experiences growing up as an Asian American. I try to showcase California cuisine through the lens of my own experiences and cultural heritage. Once I had finished figuring out my food, building my website and designing my menu, I put out my first round of reservations for the school year.
I honestly thought I was literally going to have to beg people to come eat at my place every weekend, but it turned out I was fully booked within a couple of hours. Since then, interest has only grown and people can hardly wait for the next rounds of reservations.
BK: Which menu items are your most popular?
AE: My most popular items would be my strawberry-shortcake cupcakes and all of my cheesecakes. Personally, I like making my new brioche donuts with mango cream filling.
JW: My favorite dish that I serve right now would have to be my dessert course, since I enjoy doing pastry work the best. I serve a scoop of house-made Thai basil ice cream over a bed of meyer lemon curd, meyer lemon gel, micro thai basil and toasted coconut chips.
Over the top of the ice cream is coconut powder and fresh lemon zest. The ice cream is then surrounded by crispy sable tuiles for added texture.
BK: What issues do you run into as a student who sells your cooking?
AE: I have received a lot of negative remarks, such as “You’re not a real business” and “Maybe if you’d work you could pay for school.” The reality is that college costs money no matter how good of grades you get. Anybody that goes to school with me or has worked with me knows that I work hard for what I need.
My two jobs pay my bills, but I can’t work too much on the weekdays because I’m in school from 8–5. Even working two jobs and baking doesn’t mean I don’t do without some months.
JW: There is always a fear that I might get evicted or fined for what I’m doing, but so far that hasn’t been an issue (fingers crossed). I think other than that, the biggest challenge for me would definitely be cooking a seven-course meal out of my tiny kitchen.
BK: How did you come up with the name for your restaurant, DENCH.?
JW: Back in high school, my friends and I followed an English soccer player named Emmanuel Frimpong, who played for Arsenal. One of his catch phrases was “dench,” inspired by his affection for Judi Dench, the beloved British actress. Frimpong would use “dench” as a way to say things were “wicked” or “cool.”
My friends and I thought it was funny so we started to say it too, and it kind of just stuck with me. Nowadays, if you go on #dench on Instagram, you’ll see a ton of buff British dudes and sometimes my food.
BK: What do your future plans look like?
AE: I believe that I will always bake and cook. It is something I enjoy and couldn’t imagine giving up. I would love to eventually be the house that my big family comes to for holidays and I make everything from scratch. It’s a part of me that I would love to continue to share with others as long as I am capable of doing so.
JW: In the long term, I hope to eventually open up my own restaurant. But in the meantime, I’m looking forward to to cooking in restaurants and traveling to build my repertoire and gain more experiences that I can draw from when creating more food.
Follow Itsy Bitsy Delights on Facebook and DENCH. on Instagram at @jwongdynasty.
Recently Opened in Disney Springs
Several locations opened in Disney Springs this year. Most recently, Sunshine Churros opened two carts — one in Disney Springs’ West Side and one in the Marketplace.
The menu features seven specialty churros — traditional cinnamon, watermelon, apple cinnamon, Fruity Pebbles, salted caramel, cherry limeade, and peach mango ($5.25 each), and two gourmet churros — strawberry cheesecake and Oreo ($6.25). You can also add a dip (Nutella or Dulce de Leche) to a specialty churro for $1 more.
Our personal favorites are the Peach Mango and the Cherry Limeade Churros!
Read our full review of Sunshine Churros here!
Cookie Dough and Everything Sweet
Also new to Disney Springs’ West Side is a cookie dough food truck, aptly called Cookie Dough and Everything Sweet.
Cookie Dough and Everything Sweet
The menu features five signature treats as well as cups or cones of cookie dough. The cookie dough flavors are Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter & Fluff, Cookies ‘n Cream Cold Brew, Celebration, and Candy Monster. If you’re looking for a vegan flavor, you’ll want to check out the Celebration and Cookies ‘n Cream Cold Brew. Unfortunately, none of the flavors are gluten-free.
Cookie Dough and Everything Sweet Menu
Our personal favorite is the Celebration Parfait, which features layers of Celebration Cookie Dough and Celebration Mickey Cake, vanilla custard, strawberries, sprinkles, whipped cream, and a cherry.
Note that this location usually doesn’t open until 5pm!
Read our full review of Cookie Dough and Everything Sweet here!
This March, Disney Springs welcomed the fifth U.S. location of Jaleo by Chef José Andrés.
The restaurant itself features rich and vibrant decor to coincide with the authentic Spanish cuisine, and the food is very much in line with Chef Andrés’ playful and innovative style.
One of our favorite things we’ve eaten there is the Croquetas de Pollo, which are traditional chicken fritters served on a plate resembling a pillow. This kind of reminds us of the pillow holding Cinderella’s slipper, and it’s meant to! Read more here about Chef Andres’ shoe theme!
Croquetas de Pollo at Jaleo
The Paella Valencia is an authentic standout as well!
Read our full review of Jaleo here!
Chef José Andrés also opened Pepe, which is a counter-service location attached to Jaleo. This location in Disney Springs is the first brick-and-mortar location for Pepe, following the Pepe food truck, which has been a hit for the last several years in Washington, D.C.
At Pepe, you’ll find sandwiches, gazpacho, salads, sangria, and more, including the absolutely delicious Pepito Ternera!
Pepito Ternera on Pan de Cristal
We highly recommend grabbing a quick bite here if you’re in a hurry while checking out everything at Disney Springs.
Check out our full review of Pepe here!
Mac and Cheese Food Truck
Rounding out our list of additions to Disney Springs is the Mac and Cheese Food Truck!
The menu, of course, is all about Mac and Cheese. But several variations on the beloved comfort food keep things interesting…
Mac & Cheese Food Truck Sign
We especially enjoyed the Bacon Cheeseburger Macaroni & Cheese — read our full review of it here!
Bacon Cheeseburger Mac & Cheese
The mac and cheese dishes we tried were all hearty and quite filling! Definitely grab a bowl if you’re in the mood for a mac attack!
Check out our full review of the Mac and Cheese Truck here!
José Andrés Opens a Fast-Casual Restaurant on a Lucky College Campus - Recipes
My Twitter handle is @foodobsessed6. My obsession primarily relates to dining, but I also have a growing interest in food on a much broader level, including the evolution and future of food. Many of my questions, and yours, are about to be answered in a new six-hour miniseries called EAT: The Story of Food. Produced by National Geographic Studios in association with Creative Differences, the special features interviews with nearly 70 chefs, authors, food experts and food scientists including José Andrés, Rachael Ray, Ruth Reichl, Padma Lakshmi, Michael Pollan, and more.
The special satisfies questions about the evolution of food over the course of humankind, from our ancestors throwing raw meat onto a fire for the first time, to teams of lab technicians perfecting the crunch of a potato chip. More important, it will show how this evolution of what we eat and how we eat it has actually defined human civilization and cultures around the globe.
I attended a kick-off event previewing clips from the series and a panel discussion moderated by producer Pamela Wells, and featuring chef José Andrés, primatologist Richard Wrangham, historian Andrew Smith, and Anna Boiardi (granddaughter of Chef Boyardee).
Here are a few highlights from the sneak peek event:
Panel members discussed early food memories, including Anna Boiardi who came to the U.S. from Italy as a child. She couldn’t get over peanut butter and jelly. When her mother heard about the sandwich, she thought her daughter’s description couldn’t be right.
Chef José Andrés discussed his love/hate relationship with meat. He loves how it tastes, particularly in the first five seconds, but acknowledges there are consequences to eating meat. He is pursuing more vegetarian cuisine, and is said to be opening a vegetable-focused fast-casual restaurant on the campus of George Washington University. He also spoke passionately about GMOs, and the necessity for companies and government to disclose the truth. Andrés gave a shout out to Chef Tom Colicchio who has been active in promoting the rights of consumers to know what’s in their food.
Panelist Richard Wrangham wonders if food can eventually enable us to express our differences without violence…an intriguing thought.
What Surprised D.C. Food Writers the Most in 2018
Mike Isabella, José Andrés, and new bagels all play a part
My response= Call Your Mother consistently attracting huge crowds of patrons from all over the D.C. area. The bagels are phenomenal, but who could anticipate that a “Jew-ish” deli in a very non-Jewish area would do so well?
More: It was hard not to say the Mike Isabella story, but in all honesty, I knew that most of the other writers would include it in their response. I went with Call Your Mother, which is such a sensation in part due to owner Andrew Dana’s marketing savvy but when it comes down to it, it’s about their terrific bagels.
All responses here.
If we are what we eat, then we’re all part-Asian. Lucky Chow Season 3 explores our hunger for Asian food, and travels for the first time outside of the U.S. — to China and Korea — to discover how our global appetite for the foods of Asia also leads to a greater understanding of its cultures. From global locavores to K-beauty obsessives to the revival of traditional Chinese medicine, Culinary Nomad Danielle Chang gives us an unprecedented look at how Asian cuisines feed not just our bellies, but also our minds and spirit.
SEASON 3 EPISODES
“FOOD AS CULTURAL COLLISION” (S3, Ep1)
This episode explores how cultures collide when trends meet traditions. Mister Softee taken over by the Chinese government Brooklyn Brewery is using Japanese hops from Jeju Island the Fung Bros visits a New Yorker who is reinventing the Shanghainese soup dumpling.
“FOOD AS ART” (S3, Ep2)
Today, what we watch can be just as appetizing as what we eat. From the Korean art of mukbang to viral sensations, artists both amateur and professional are using food as their medium of choice. Being a foodie today is just as likely to happen in a 24/7 Korean spa as it is in a restaurant.
“FOOD AS GLOBAL LOCAVORE” (S3, Ep3)
It isn’t just recipes that get imported and exported between the East and West, but also food practices. The farm to table movement is not at all uniquely American. We travel around China’s Hangzhou region with Dai Jianjun of Dragon’s Well Manor and to Sang Lee Farms in New York’s North Fork to see how widespread this movement to keep things local really is.
“FOOD AS WELLNESS” (S3, Ep4)
As bone broth and kombucha line the shelves of your local grocery store, we take a closer look at “food as medicine”. From visits to the Traditional Chinese Medicine Centre in China, Manhattan Chinatown’s Po Wing Market and Seoul’s Kimchi Museum, we learn that food is so much more than just sustenance.
“FOOD AS AZN” (S3, Ep5)
The next generation of Asian Americans are redefining what it means to be Asian in the U.S. by keeping one foot in the past, and the other in the future. We talk to renegade chefs, entrepreneurs and cultural ambassadors from Canal Street Market to the dance party sensation Bubble_T to see what’s in store for the future of Asians in the mainstream.
“FOOD AS BEAUTY” (S3, Ep6)
Asian beauty secrets have long held fascination with Western audiences. Charlotte Cho from Sokoglam shows us how the K-Beauty boom is all over mainstream America today. We talk to the (mostly) women leading the charge in the cosmetics and skincare scene and disrupting the American beauty industry, from inside out.
In Season 2 of Lucky Chow, we wander up, down and across America to discover how deeply Asian culture and cuisine are rooted in our everyday lives. Our appetite for everything Asian leads us to bowls of noodles and skewers of barbecued meats, to heaping Japanese okonomiyaki and velvety Indian duck curry. And along the way we were lucky enough to step into the lives of sumo wrestlers, Buddhist monks, seriously hip Korean American farmers and a pair of Chinese newlyweds raucously merging old and new world traditions. Now we’re hungrier than ever.
SEASON 2 EPISODES
TRENDING JAPANESE, 201
Japan has mesmerized American foodies for generations, and a new wave of Japanese culinary culture continues to intoxicate us. Exploring American manifestations of otaku, the Japanese trope that combines cutting-edge pop culture with fetishistic obsession, Danielle visits New York’s first cat cafe a Brooklyn izakaya run by a Frenchman in thrall to Japanese anime and manga and a California suburban mom who’s a star on the international bento box circuit. On a more traditional note, Danielle gets in the sumo ring with a 600-pound opponent before she helps him make chanko nabe, the sumo wrestler’s staple meal.
ASIAN FARM TO TABLE, 202
Farmers are the new rock stars of the food world, and in this episode, Danielle visits agriculturists large and small, traditional and cutting edge. Ross Koda, a third-generation Japanese-American, who runs a renowned Central Valley rice farm and hopes to keep it in the family. Kristyn Leach, a Korean adoptee, who hand grows artisanal, heirloom Asian produce for one of San Francisco’s most popular restaurants. And on the gorgeous Half Moon Bay coast, a pair of electricians who saw a gap in the market, operating America’s first wasabi farm.
FOOD OF THE GODS, 203
The relationship between faith and food is evident at three Asian houses of worship: an imposing Buddhist temple where Danielle is served an artful vegetarian feast a Sikh temple where she helps cook Indian flatbread for a communal meal where all are welcome and a Queens mosque’s annual food fair, where she samples Indonesian dishes and learns about life as a Muslim in America.
MADE IN CHINA, 204
The rise of China has meant the rise of Chinese culinary traditions in America. Danielle checks out an industrial kitchen where traditional “confinement meals” are made for new mothers across the country an underground Manhattan cocktail den whose main ingredient is the fiery liquor baijiu, the world’s most heavily consumed spirit and a wedding in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown where old world and new meet at the banquet table and on the dance floor.
THE NEW INDIAN, 205
A new generation of chefs and entrepreneurs is finally bringing the amazing cooking of the world’s second-largest country to a broad American audience. Danielle interviews a former financier who offers a light, healthy take on Indian classics at his fast-casual start-up Inday a Silicon Valley engineer who got her start in the food business selling homemade chai by bicycle in the hills of San Francisco and the founder of Soho Tiffin Junction, another fast-casual concept, this one inspired by the classic Indian boxed lunches of his childhood.
TAIWAN’S TRUE FLAVORS, 206
Danielle gets back to her roots in an episode devoted to the distinctive, rustic cuisine of Taiwan. With Cathy Erway, author of “Foods of Taiwan,” she hits a Chinatown market and then makes the island’s most famous dish, beef noodle soup. At Taiwan Bear House, started by homesick young expats, she tries a New York take on the box lunches known as biandang. And in California’s OC, she pays a twilight visit to America’s closest counterpart to a classic Taiwanese night market.
ASIAN FOOD, AMERICAN DREAM, 207
Asian cuisine is increasingly the engine driving the growth of the American food industry. Danielle talks to an eclectic range of Asian-American entrepreneurs, from the likes of Lynda Trang Dai, once known as the Vietnamese Madonna, now the queen of banh mi sandwiches in Orange County’s Little Saigon to Charles Phan, the ground-breaking chef whose Slanted Door was named best restaurant in the country by the James Beard Foundation.
Lucky Chow is a new national public television series co-produced with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and Bruce Seidel / Hot Lemon Productions. The 6-episode series follows LUCKYRICE culinary festival founder Danielle Chang as she travels across America exploring the Asian food landscape. The series features many of the country’s most renowned chefs and culinary personalities, such as Top Chef winner Kristen Kish, YouTube sensation Maangchi, and ramen renegade chef Ivan Orkin. Check local stations for exact dates and times. Lucky Chow is a co-production of LUCKYRICE and Center for Asian American Media (CAAM).
“So much has changed since we launched LUCKYRICE 6 years ago, and today Asian food is not only everywhere, it’s also innovating as a cuisine. Through Lucky Chow, we travel across the country to meet the chefs and personalities behind this movement.“ said LUCKYRICE Founder Danielle Chang.
SEASON 1 EPISODES
Japan’s famous noodle dish has swept America by storm, with diners waiting hours to slurp a bowl of noodles, and we travel across the country to reveal this mania. The episode kicks off with a ramen tutorial from Sun Noodles, who custom makes noodles for most of America’s ramen chefs, including Ivan Orkin, the renegade New Yorker-turned-Japanese ramen chef who we visit later in the episode. Next, we visit seafood purveyor-turned-ramen chef Yuji Haraguchi as he creates a “New York” version of his broth-less ramen dish mazemen (with interpretations of classic NY deli food such as “bacon and eggs” or “bagels with lox”) using sustainable and typically discarded seafood from the nearby Whole Foods Market. Tummies full, we check out as the new Ivan Ramen restaurant to discusses ramen culture in NY vs Tokyo. The episode then travels to Berkeley, CA, as we tour the local greenmarket with 3 former Chez Panisse chefs who traveled to Japan to learn about its ramen culture and have returned to the US to create The Ramen Shop which serves a locally sourced, seasonal, and sustainable Meyer Lemon Shoyu Ramen that takes from Japan’s infamous ramen culture but creates something wholly local and personal.
The two largest Korean populations in the US are in New York and Los Angeles, and we visit both to check out what distinguishes each. Whereas NY’s Koreatown butts against the Empire State Building, and is essential one-block long, LA’s Koreatown merges with the city’s Latino community and is practically a city on to itself. Both are 24-hour hubs of food and drinking culture. At dinner with Lisa Ling and her husband Paul Song, the chef /owner of Parks BBQ breaks down the basics of Korean cooking. Back in NY, we tour Manhattan’s K-town with author of Koreatown USA, Matt Rodbard, and stop in at Pocha 32, for some watermelon soju and budaejjigae. Later in the episode, at Saveur Magazine’s test kitchen (which happens to be located in K-town), Top Chef Winner Kristen Kish, a Seoul-born Korean adoptee, is receiving her first-ever Korean cooking lesson with us. Her teacher is Maangchi, the Korean housewife who is now a Youtube sensation and one of the web’s most beloved cooking instructors, and together we learn how to make kimchi.
CHINATOWN NYC, RE-IMAGINED
Perhaps more than any other Asian cuisine, Chinese food in America has evolved over the generations. We visit— and challenge— the borders of Manhattan’s Chinatown, through the lens of two third-generation young Chinese American restaurateurs who have changed how Americans define Chinese cuisine. Wilson Tang, of Nom Wah Tea Parlor, has inherited his family’s dim sum parlor (America’s oldest) to preserve its legacy while opening up a fine-dining Chinese restaurant with Chef Jonathan Wu on Chinatown’s expanding Lower East Side Jewish immigrant neighborhood. Speaking of cultural collisions, we also get a Peking Duck tutorial from Ed Schoenfeld, a self-proclaimed Chinese food expert who grew up Jewish in Brooklyn, yet has opened one of the most critically acclaimed Chinese restaurants today in New York alongside chef Joe Ng. The episode closes at Hakkasan, a mega-brand for Chinese food which was birthed in London by Alan Yau and now spawns nightclubs in Las Vegas as well as restaurants from Beverly Hills to Dubai to Shanghai. They’ve created a “global” brand for “Chinatown” that transcends boundaries.
NORTHERN THAI CUISINE, FROM LAS VEGAS TO LOS ANGELES
A food trend that epitomizes America’s insatiable palate for Asian food is grounded in its obsession with Northern Thai cuisine. Remarkably, the most well-known face of this trend is that of Andy Ricker, a Portland, OR-carpenter-turned chef, who has brought “authentic”, archival Thai food to America. In this episode, we travel to Las Vegas, where Andy Ricker prepares a welcome dinner for participating LUCKYRICE Festival chefs at the much-loved Lotus of Siam, off the strip in Las Vegas, with chef/owner Saipin Chutima at the helm. The duo work together to create their collective version of a Northern Laab, a typical Issan dish that is spicy, tasty drinking food in Chiang Mai. Jet Tila, who is at the table, rhapsodizes about the days when his family opened America’s first Thai grocery store in Hollywood, CA, and brought ingredients like lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves to the American palate. Later, we check out this legendary market, and pay a tribute at a local LA Thai temple, to usher us luck as Jet Tila travels to NYC to participate in LUCKYRICE’s annual James Beard House dinner, which this year focuses on Thai New Year (Songkram) prepared by Chef Jet along with a bevy of other Thai chefs including Pichet Ong and Hong Thaimee.
THE BAY AREA’S PACIFIC RIM CUISINE, as personified by Google
The Bay Area is perhaps the most Asian of any population outside of Asia. We visit the world headquarters for Google, which was founded in Silicon Valley in the South Bay city of Mountain View. Where “peach” orchards ran abundant just a generation ago, “Apple” (Computers) are now dominating and disrupting how the world functions. We meet with Olivia Wu, who designed the original Asian restaurant concepts “on campus”, including the home-style “Jia”, which remains one of the most popular restaurants on campus. We go behind the scenes with Baadal, Google’s first “sit-down” restaurant, which happens to be Indian, as we participate in the assembly line process that churns out 2,000 servings of the Indian fried rice dish, “Biryani” on “Biryani Fridays”. Driving away from Google, we visit some of their purveyors, who epitomize the ethos of the Bay Area food culture – which is local, seasonal and sustainable. We visit two retired Japanese semiconductor executives, who have constructed an indoor, vertical farm called Ecopia – which not only services some of the top restaurants in the Bay Area, but also uses a mere 3% of water vs traditional farming techniques, as they seek to redefine farming culture in the midst of global warming. After a career in Silicon Valley running Fortune 500 companies, they are returning to their original immigrant roots as farmers, right here before Silicon Valley was birthed. We end the episode at Hodo Soy Beanery, which started out making artisanal tofu products for a handful and has now proliferated into the mainstream just as Asian food products and palates have gone mainstream.
Filipinos comprise the second largest Asian American population nationwide (and the largest in California), but whose cuisine is relatively unknown. We explore this phenomenon with PJ Quesada, whose grew up working in his grandparents’ Filipino food factory and is now founder of the Filipino Food Movement, as we feast at his buddy Tim Luym’s global-Filipino restaurant, Attic. In Los Angeles, we visit Kristine de la Cruz, who is introducing Filipino flavors like ube with her unusual bakery, Crème Caramel. Back in NY, we meet Nicole Ponseca, an advertising executive who left her Madison Ave life, and her husband Chef Miguel Trinadad, to give voice to Filipino culture through food their restaurants, Maharlika and Jeepney, are now on every foodies’ “must-try” lists and we sit down to “Kamayan” with Chef Susur Lee. Food is a powerful way for Asian cultures to give voice to tradition, and we see a new generation that is embracing this loud and clear.
From our home base in downtown Manhattan, the LUCKYRICE Festival spotlights Asian culture through annual food festivals that take place annually in 6 cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Las Vegas and Chicago. We work with a hundreds of chefs across the country, and the LUCKYRICE Culinary Council, which includes José Andrés, Daniel Boulud, Floyd Cardoz, David Chang, Susur Lee, Anita Lo, Masaharu Morimoto, Pichet Ong, Zakary Pelaccio, Charles Phan, Eric Ripert, Marcus Samuelsson, Angelo Sosa, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Sang Yoon. Please visit www.luckyrice.com for more information.
The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. CAAM does this by funding, producing, distributing and exhibiting works in film, television and digital media. For more information on CAAM, please visit www.caamedia.org.
Lucky Chow is a co-production of LUCKYRICE and Center for Asian American Media (CAAM).
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–Original reporting by Avital Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.
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