“As a Chinese American, I try to tap into some of that nostalgia and find out what makes me feel good as a chef and as an eater. “It was something that resonated with me beyond the Chinese American and Quincy communities, and I think other people feel that comfort as well,” Louis says.
Indeed, his mother, Joyce Chan, originally ran the space as a bakery-slash-music studio, where her rock band practiced at night. Both the band and the bakery were called Contempo. Ms. Chan came to Boston from Hong Kong when she was 21 years old and lived with her three siblings and her parents in a two-bedroom apartment. The university funds went to her brother. But she also wanted a degree.
“My mother was a very exceptional person. … She worked four jobs and paid her way through Boston University to get a degree in history. She became a teacher at Charlestown High School. . She had an unfathomable passion for music. She decided to start learning music on her own. She taught herself piano and started a Chinese rock band,” said Louis. says.
She founded Contempo, operating out of a small space on Neeland Street. Prices were high, so she and her drummer found a cheaper space on Hancock Street in Quincy. It was half bakery (the drummer’s request) and half rock hangout (Chan’s choice). Chan was in charge of the business side.
Louis, who lived in Brookline at the time, was just 13 years old and watched his mother commute to Charlestown and then Quincy to write books, returning home late at night. At the time, he could never have imagined that he would take over the space.
“When I started cooking, I always thought, ‘Oh, I want to be a real chef.’ I want to cook fancy food, and I want to have a sit-down restaurant.” …A bakery doesn’t really fit into that dream. yeah. But I learned how to hustle from her.
“It seems silly to be a full-time teacher when it’s already an incredibly difficult job. And then you end up owning a business, which is also an incredibly difficult job. So… “Can you form a band and still come home to your family every night? It’s pretty crazy. It taught me how to sharpen,” he says.
Louis spent several years working as a community organizer in Chinatown before moving to Guangzhou, China, where he met his wife and learned to cook as an apprentice at a hand-pulled noodle shop. Returning to his hometown, he took a job at Ana Sotun’s Oleana, but had no idea how special it was.
“I had never eaten out at a nice restaurant. Applebee’s was so delicious to me at the time. And my sister said, ‘They won a James Beard Award.’ It was. “What is that? ’” he says with a laugh.
He was a quick learner. He then had a string of high-profile jobs in London, but he was called home by his mother during the pandemic.
“She said, ‘I’m turning 70 this year. Do you want this bakery? If not, I’ll probably sell it.’
Although it wasn’t the fine-dining restaurant he envisioned, he saw potential in downtown Quincy. His mother’s band still practices in the basement. And she also takes a swipe at Bao from time to time.
“While we were servicing it, a group of thieves apparently pulled speakers and guitar amps and stuff out of the basement. But that’s a really good thing,” Louis says.
Brian Moy: Chinatown Remake
Brian Moy owns Chinatown restaurants Ruckus (noodles) and Shojo (cocktails and small plates). Soon, he plans to reopen his family’s longtime dim sum restaurant, China Pearl. Moy’s great-grandfather came to Worcester from Guangzhou (also known as Canton), China, and worked in a restaurant. His life has come full circle, and Moy now lives in Canton, Massachusetts, where he runs several of his own companies. Moy’s father Ricky he came to Boston in 1962 and found work as a carrier at his Pearl, the original China that opened in 1960.
“At the time, it was a much smaller community in Chinatown. … He lived in the South End and got his first job at China Pearl within the first week. Over the years, he I ran various businesses, including a convenience store, a famous driving school, and a travel agency. That was my first memory,” he recalls.
In 1980, Ricky Moy opened Ho Yuen Ting on Hudson Street, a true family restaurant with uncles, aunts and grandparents in the kitchen. Brian was born in his 1981 year and they gathered there for family celebrations. It remained open until 2006, cementing the Moi family tradition in Chinatown. Brian Moy transformed this restaurant in his 2016 into the gourmet favorite Best His Little His Restaurant.
In the late ’80s, Ricky Moi acquired China Pearl, a moment that remains in his son’s memory.
“Back then, my father didn’t wear a suit. That summer day, he wore a suit. He was going to the bank to get a loan. I gave him a high-five and said, I said, “Dad, I got this.” Lo and behold, he was approved for a loan, his family raised the money, some partners pitched in, and we brought in a dim sum chef from Hong Kong,” he says.
Brian Moy worked there as a bus driver and waiter as a teenager. But that was the limit for his father.
“My sister, who was born into a traditional Chinese family, was supposed to be a doctor. I was supposed to be a lawyer. [My dad] People always told me, “Don’t run a restaurant.” It’s very stressful. Study hard at school and get a good job. ” I think he was a little stubborn. The more he told me not to do something, the more I wanted to do it,” Moi says. “I also imitated my father. Whenever we went up the China Pearl stairs (two long steps with mirrors on each side), he had a pocket comb with him. He took it out and combed his hair. I always carried a pocket comb with me. So when I was growing up and going up the stairs, I would comb my hair like he did before entering the restaurant. Ta.”
After graduating from college, the young Moi took over China Pearl in Woburn to prove himself, then became a partner in his family’s business, Quincy China Pearl, now 18 years old. Chinatown’s Ruckus and Shojo followed. He is currently remaking his family’s flagship store, the original China Pearl, and plans to reopen it in the coming months. Things are different from his father’s time, he says, with improved labor costs, food costs and quality of life.
“My father worked seven days a week. Employees worked six days a week, from morning until closing. That was the expectation. …Now it’s 40 hours a week, four or five days a week. ” he says. “Back then, it was the only option for someone who was new to this country and didn’t speak much English. Now, as a new immigrant, you have a choice. You can become an Uber driver even if you don’t speak much English. You can work online, you can work remotely, you can do e-commerce.”
The Chinatown area is also different.
“Weekends in Chinatown were a big hit with people coming from all over the world for their weekly needs of Chinese vegetables, produce, meat, and more. … Thanks to other Chinatowns in Malden and Quincy, families It reduced the need to come to town,” he says.
Now, Moi has a growing number of students and young professionals, which is part of the reason he opened Shojo in 2012. The new China His Pearl will also be a combination of modern and traditional.
“Chinatowns across the country are fighting hard to maintain their footprint. If you walk into a Chinatown now, you’ll see that it’s in the shadow of high-rise buildings. People joke that Chinatown is so historic that they can’t develop buildings any higher. They need to maintain the existing building footprint. “There is,” he says.
Fortunately, Moi’s family owns the China Pearl property, which Moi says was “one of my father’s best business decisions.” Today, Moi is proud that China Pearl is the oldest continuously operating Chinese restaurant in Boston.
Moi, 42, currently has two children. He has no intention of forcing them into the family business. But even if he doesn’t say it out loud, he can sense that his father is happy with his career.
“My father is a pretty traditional, old-fashioned guy. He rarely gets compliments, but his friends often comment to me, “Your father is proud of you,” he says. Masu.
Nadia Spellman: Dumpling Dynasty
Nadia Spellman, 42, runs Dumpling Daughter restaurants in Brookline, Weston and now South Boston. Her name comes from her mother, Sally, who had just divorced a New York City restaurant owner and was looking for a new start when she arrived in Boston in 1978 as a single mother. This is a tribute to Lin.
“She opened her first restaurant because she wanted to be her own boss.” [The Great Wall] Right next to the state capitol. It was very high-end, and I think she got three stars from the Globe,” says Spellman, who saved $200,000 during her marriage.
In 1981, she met Nadia’s father, Edward Nan Liu. By that time, she was running Beijing Cuisine in Chinatown, serving soul food such as dumplings, noodles, and steamed buns. Liu stopped by for a snack with her godson and began critiquing her meal.
“My father ordered about 10 dishes, including lobster with ginger and green onions. My mother made her first Chinese-style meal in Boston with Maine New England lobster. I thought it was very strange that someone would order a 10-course meal including lobster for two-tops. So she came out of the kitchen to see who it was, and it was a handsome, handsome man. …So she… I walked up to him and said, “How are you doing?” And he said, ‘Do you want the truth or do you want something that feels good? ”
Nadia soon followed. The two opened Sally Lynn’s, an upscale restaurant on the waterfront, in 1984, bringing a white-tablecloth Chinese restaurant to the city. Spellman was a toddler at the time. Another destination branch followed in Newton, followed by a branch on the rooftop of the Cambridge Hyatt.
“It was fascinating. Very fascinating,” Spellman said. His three-tier dining room features exotic art, custom logo carpeting, and gorgeous river views.
“My parents were pioneers who said, ‘You don’t need to open a store in Chinatown.’ You can also create a destination outside of Chinatown,” she says.
Spellman’s parents divorced in 1993. Her parents sent her to school in upstate New York, far from her family’s strife, and trained her as a potential Olympic figure skater. She then returned to her home and worked at Sally Lyn’s while finishing high school.
“I moved back to Weston and my mom moved to New Jersey to open a restaurant because she was always a self-sufficient woman. She wanted to build her own career and was very supportive of us. “My mother supported our family very financially,” she says.
Spellman enjoyed working after school.
“It helped me open up a little bit. I was very shy and submissive as a child, but working with people in the restaurant industry really opened up my mind,” she says. .
But her elderly father warned her about restaurants: It was purely a passion for your mother and me. High-end restaurants have very low profit margins. ”
Before he passed away in 2009, she told him about her dumpling idea.
“I always told him, you can have vegetables, meat, and carbohydrates all in one bite. What could be better than that? But back then, in 2010, there were no frozen dumplings on the Western market at all. “It was,” she says.
To build a following, she launched Dumpling Daughter in 2014 near Weston, where she grew up. The company is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Her mother currently lives in Florida. Several of Sally Lynn’s recipes are featured on the Dumpling Daughter menu, including cucumber salad and wonton soup.
“I wanted people to know that I was the daughter of someone who did something here,” Spellman says. “It’s a joy to do that because someone has to take it over.”
Kara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org her @kcbaskin.