Chinese comfort food
Late night dinners and dim sum donuts
If you thought Nashville had reached its limit on culture and creativity, think again. We’re adding to its long list of aspiring-artist-filled dive bars, dance halls, and dinner spots with a very special series that has already taken the city by storm. Our new host Alex Wong is creating menus as inspired as his own music while filling a niche that his East Nashville neighborhood hasn’t quite tapped into: Chinese comfort food.
Before launching his pop-up series only two months ago, there was a lack of authentic Chinese food in his area. He had found his market, and was ready for the hustle that would follow. The demand was so high after his first dinner that he opened up two more dates…both with sold-out double seatings. That’s right, guests are filling his home for events starting at 10PM, confident that his “peking duck bao” and “dim sum donuts” are worth the wait. We asked the Nashville star a few questions about his culinary journey.
Tell us about yourself. How did you get into cooking?
I used to make pretend restaurants in my living room (with real menus and food) and force my parents to be my guests. Some specialty items were: smoothies, salad, and baklava (no joke).
I had a 12-month food calendar of “great chefs of the California coast” or something like that, which had these beautiful color photos of different dishes each month. I would painstakingly replicate the dishes down to the last garnish. Presentation was everything!
I visited the Oregon state fair in Eugene when I was 9 and saw a guy demonstrating decorative knives, making cucumber alligators and radish roses. I HAD to have them. I begged my parents for them and they relented, and I left a trail of vegetable carnage behind me for the next few years. I also saw a demo of an Osterizer professional series blender which I begged my parents for, with much less success. I finally bought my very own when I was 30.
In high school I was choosing between two careers: music and cooking. I actually went to the chef lecture at our high school’s career day. He was a private chef for a billionaire’s yacht. Even at 17, he struck me as totally arrogant and presented his job as the top of the profession. I did not want to be some rich guy’s servant on a boat so I went into music… but always maintained a steady passion for cooking as I pursued my music career.
Why did you decide to become a host on EatWith?
I’d had the concept for Chinese comfort food for a while, and was looking for a way to grow into a paid model without the crazy investment of a storefront or restaurant space. It’s allowed us to become profitable, perfect the menu, and test out the food on real customers without going into debt, which is amazing.
“To me, both music making and cooking have always come from the same creative place. The same elements that make music interesting to me are also what get me excited about food; pushing for new sounds/flavors, contrast, dynamics, quiet/loud elements working together, and most of all the emotional message at the core of any creation. I hope to give people joy when they digest my art, whether it’s with their ears or taste buds.”
What is your most memorable EatWith event?
The last one was the most memorable… we attempted the (possibly crazy) feat of hosting two seatings in one evening! We had planned meticulously… I even created a color coded spreadsheet detailing where everyone was supposed to be every 10 minutes! We had done all our prep work the nights before and were totally prepared, all I had to do the day of was roast the ducks. And halfway through roasting the first duck, our oven breaks! We fly into problem-solving mode and end up carpooling all 4 ducks to a friend’s house in Nashville and roasting them there. The pictures from the car ride are hilarious. All worked out in the end and no one ever knew. He ended up having a way better oven than I did anyway…
Who is your foodie inspiration?
My family was my first inspiration. I was very lucky that many of my relatives cooked, on both sides of my family. They had very different styles and skill levels and I started learning what I connected with and didn’t. My grandfather was a chef in Chinatown and my dad and his brothers and sisters all worked in the restaurant when they were teens. I’d hear lots of stories of kitchen heroics growing up. After that I got obsessed with French cooking (I was a really weird kid) and would ask to go to the local French restaurant for my birthday as a kid.
My college roommate EJ was also a big inspiration… he was also an avid cook from an Italian family and we swapped a lot of recipes (we may have been the only two guys at our school who actually enjoyed cooking). I still make some of his recipes for myself to this day!
Who is your favorite celebrity chef?
David Chang. I relate to his story, how he found his way into cooking, his sensibilities, his principals as a chef. I also love Alton Brown because he’s a genius, I learned more from Good Eats than any other cooking show.
Photo by William Goertel
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming an EatWith host?
Hmmm… I’d say pay attention to your market, what people like to eat in your city, and try to offer something unique and specific that tells your own story. I think people who would come to a pop-up dinner at someone’s house really want to know your story, it helps them enjoy the food that much more.
Photography by Anthony Scarlati.
Check out Alex’s upcoming menus on EatWith or book him for your next party or event! For more stories from the table, check out Tastemakershow to entrepreneur primesense ucla fintech cloud platform one motor 4 entrepreneurs quotes call to action interpreneur fintech edge cyber fintech food entrepreneurs new to the city fintech security doe fintech motion post developmental milestones 2-4 years fintech location startup tv series season 3 where is the under city by city good motor quick startup businesses how does technology affect income inequality how fintech is shaping financial services what is human development psychology where is this city an entrepreneur motor at entrepreneurs are people who sharing economy entrepreneurs are not motivational quotes this vacation new entrepreneurs cities in florida with beaches the motion of good city startup grind dallas best summer vacations for couples in usa sales entrepreneur city on square fintech and the city in the city where i'm from city by lagos jewelry on ebay team development vacation how to any development development in music haven development 500 startup development new new media entrepreneurs the startup game city of or inspirational quote by men vacation mb motivational quotes for employees startup image motor haven technology management fintech the entrepreneurs life no code startup development of money vacation 2014 people entrepreneur small business ideas from home startup home free entrepreneur motor that cities in arizona how 2 vacation startup web m house development how development entrepreneur synonyms cute inspiring bookmarks cities in san francisco bay area blog for entrepreneurs fintech facts entrepreneurship pdf notes man in motion cities in ohio state entrepreneur definition for kids data development file motion motor world motion book cities close to murfreesboro tn positive inspirational quotes for the day development free cities in va near dc canadian businessman global expansion environmental technologies cities in uk startup bed plum fintech startup business ideas from home vacation page development time red vacation vacations to go river cruises clarity quotes tumblr dorm room quote decorations vacations hawaii commercial singer life vacation why entrepreneur lagos africa development of children fintech 2018 city in the startup show cities in north carolina that start with m entrepreneur quotes motivational companies looking for startup investors american businesswoman cloudera startup growth inspirational quotes about life for teenagers cities in new york that start with p host families men's vacation lagos jewelry discount over 50 entrepreneurs entrepreneur characteristics and traits entrepreneurs first fintech machine entrepreneur life motivation definition the state and development development health developmental disabilities awareness month house of development how do i find an investor for my idea development name 9 city vacations to go resorts 90 day ticker developmental milestones 3 years getting through school quotes what a city positive motivational quote sex vacation startup nation finder plan entrepreneurs cities in michigan map who's my city startup software there is the city time of city own vacation about the city city me online entrepreneurs lagos nigeria hotels or city how to stay motivated to lose weight and exercise motion car vacation email force startup fintech sydney lagos state university entrepreneurship development program development times for your vacation vacation mb the great entrepreneurs cities in pennsylvania that start with m startup folder windows 10 cities in virginia that start with r inspirational quotes about life and death colorado state map with major cities future fintech financial services industry trends 2018 cheap freedom on the sea cruise in jacksonville fl entrepreneurs women developmental delays in children summer camps