Asheville restaurateur thrives through COVID-19, plans new concept

Aaron Cheng, at just 29, has an entire portfolio of restaurants to his name.

In Asheville, where he’s now a full-time resident, he’s opened two locations of Yum Sushi Burrito and Poke. He’s since opened another in Johnson City, Tennessee, and has plans for more.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he also launched a whole new concept: The Madness Sushi, Burger and Bar, at 275 Smokey Park Highway. 

It’s been so popular that Cheng will add a new location in late summer at 1020 Merrimon Ave., the former site of Early Girl North and, before that, Ambrozia. 

The Hong Kong-born Cheng, who moved stateside at 8 years old, was raised in a family where the food business was central.

From left: Manager Victoria Dillard and owner Aaron Cheng pose inside of The Madness Sushi Bar and Burger on Friday, April 23, 2021. At 29 years old, Cheng currently owns several restaurants.

After launching a few Chinese buffets and takeout restaurants, his parents and extended family found success with the Cajun seafood restaurant Surfing Crab, which has multiple locations in Texas and

Read More

Retrenched because of Covid-19, ex-hotel workers in Penang provide delicious packed meals at W. Kitchen

W. Kitchen staff prepares lunch boxes for delivery and takeaways. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE

W. Kitchen staff prepares lunch boxes for delivery and takeaways. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE

GEORGE TOWN, March 11 — When The Northam All Suite Hotel closed its doors last June for a massive two-year renovation, most of its employees were laid off.

Wang Chen Yee, 54, who was the general manager, decided to start a small food business and roped in some of the former hotel employees.

“We were retrenched so I was thinking of what to do next and I wanted to do something to help those who are talented but with nowhere to go,” he said.

This saw the birth of W. Kitchen in late June, a catering and lunch box business located in a shophouse at Arratoon Road in George Town.

The team of about 10 people, all retrenched hotel workers, started producing hotel-quality and reasonably-priced breakfast, lunch and dinner sets for delivery and takeaways.

Read More

Pensacola’s food truck scene flourishes 2020 despite COVID-19 pandemic

This story has been updated to correct a mistake that appeared in the original version. The name of the Greek’s Catering and Events food truck co-owner is Stelios Peterson.

Food trucks were a bit taboo in Pensacola five years ago. Now, they’re everywhere in the city in 2021, representative of a shift in the restaurant industry, at least temporarily.

Today, you’ll find food trucks morning, noon and night serving customers at neighborhood subdivisions and apartment complexes and in the parking lots of bars, breweries and other businesses all across Northwest Florida.

But in 2015 and 2016, food trucks were so foreign to the city’s ecosystem that their regulation was constantly in question and their very existence was contentiously debated by some local businesses

Cook Demitrius Arnold, left, and owner Kendrick Hobbs plate a mac and cheese burger melt July 13 at the new Melt food truck in Pensacola.

“The restaurants were all up in arms against them and everything, and food truck ordinances were being passed around and passed on by City Council over

Read More

Racism targets Asian food, business during COVID-19 pandemic

As the coronavirus spread throughout the U.S., bigotry toward Asian Americans was not far behind, fueled by the news that COVID-19 first appeared in China.

Some initial evidence suggested the virus began in bats, which infected another animal that may have spread it to people at one of Wuhan, China’s “wet markets.” Such markets sell fresh meat, fish and vegetables, and some also sell live animals, such as chickens, that are butchered on site to ensure freshness for consumers.

The information quickly got distorted in the U.S., spurring racist memes on social media that portrayed Chinese people as bat eaters responsible for spreading the virus, and reviving century-old tropes about Asian food being dirty. Fueling the fire, President Donald Trump repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as “the China virus.”

“That old-school rhetoric that we eat bats, dogs and rats — that racism is still alive and well,” said Clarence Kwan, creator

Read More