It was very difficult because we had a limited staff. And with the pandemic, we had to follow protocol. We had to wear a mask and I wore a mask over 12-14 hours a day. We had to leave it, and on top of that we had to follow CDC guidelines. All the cooks sanitized their stations every hour and changed the utensils. We had never faced such moments before, but we have been through it. And now we are back to normal. But we’re going to continue to use the process and make sure we don’t want to take risks.
How has your experience of the pandemic been on an emotional level?
Red 8 was open four days a week. I worked during the pandemic. It was a continuous working process. I had to make sure the staff understood what we needed to keep in mind. I think the only thing that affected me a bit mentally was that every day when I walked into work – even when you post the schedule – people would call me at the last minute, “Oh, I don’t feel good; I’m sick. ”I was like,“ Please stay home, ”even when I was understaffed. Basically people call very often, and that’s something I had to come to terms with.
How do you feel when you return to a normal life? What do you hope to come next year and what role do you think the Encore will play?
Well I can feel the energy – people are excited. Life is reborn again and I can feel it myself too. I can’t believe we’ve been through this for over a year now, and I certainly didn’t expect a pandemic in my life. But I have had my second dose of the vaccine, and our facility encourages all staff to get and do so – the company will give employees a $ 25 gift card to say thank you, to make sure that all staff are protected. and the customer is protected.
What made you want to become a chef?
I was born in Taiwan and moved to Chicago in 1976, to Highland Park. My father was a chef and I worked side by side with him from the age of 12. So before I graduated from high school I basically worked all job titles from dishwasher to busboy to waiter. Then I would start going to the kitchen to cook as a teenager in the summer. All the kids were playing outside, and I was basically in the hot kitchen, making everything from scratch, like dumplings and mu shu pancakes. Before the restaurant opened, I had to peel 150-200 pounds of shrimp, piece by piece. It seemed like it took forever to get there.
But it was invaluable for me to understand the business process. And even when I have new people on board, I’ll show them, you know, the basics of phase one, phase two of learning. First, you become a cook; later you become a chef.
What makes Boston’s restaurant scene so special?
Seafood. I love seafood. Here I can get all the seafood I can think of. It is a very unique city. Basically they just dump water and deliver it to your restaurant. I have a live seafood aquarium in the kitchen with lobster, king crab. We have a lot of guests who, when they want seafood, they want it alive, brought to the table. Maybe, when you get the chance, I can cook you a live fish! It will melt in your mouth without even being chewed – it’s so fresh, juicy and tender.
Your restaurant in Las Vegas has been awarded a Michelin star. How? ‘Or’ What?
I even asked myself this question. I mean, the bottom line is you have to really work hard at it. Every day I go in and try to give almost 200 percent. I think the mission is about consistency. If we can get consistency in everyday food, I think that’s how you earn the title. And believe me, cooking is the easiest thing for me. But it’s about recruiting the staff, training them, wanting them to be there every day, making them understand the product, how we introduce it, how we treat it and get that end result right before deliver it to the table. . And I want this process to repeat every day. That’s the challenge: get the staff to have the same goal.
Who has been your most memorable customer of all time?
So many of them! I think the most memorable or famous person was probably Michael Jackson. During this time, I was in Las Vegas. He arrived around 3 a.m., but the restaurant opened at 5 a.m. He made a special request. He really wanted to have dinner at the restaurant and we made a special arrangement. We opened for him. He brought his children and went to the private dining room. The restaurant was closed anyway, but he’s sitting there in a private dining room with two bodyguards standing outside the door.
He was super nice. It was a five star, five diamond hotel. We had a lot of high profile guests and the staff couldn’t go and ask for autographs or take pictures with them. Basically we had to leave them alone because they didn’t want to be bothered, and we tried to be ourselves and tried to give them the best service. But he approached all of the staff and said hello to them.
What’s your favorite snack when you’re not working?
My wife is still mad at me. I work in a restaurant 12, 14 hours a day. She basically says I can have whatever I want in the kitchen. I can cook anything when I’m at work, but I don’t touch anything – I’m not hungry. But when I leave the building, I want the simplest thing possible. I mean, if you give me two pieces of bread with cold cuts, I don’t mind. Give me a hot dog and I’m happy.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Boston so far, besides your own?
The one I really like is Neptune, the seafood restaurant. It’s quick. I took my wife and child – she’s 10 – when they arrived in Boston. If we put 2000 oysters right in front of her, she would eat them all by herself! It’s funny.