Celebrating AAPI Month through culinary success and a passion for food – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and for the past few weeks communities have been celebrating the cultures that have transformed neighborhoods – and taste buds – in North Texas.
At Garland, a unique kitchen concept gives several Asian businesses a chance to succeed.
As you walk the halls of Revolving Kitchen, there are stories of passion and dedication.
“Sushi is like art,” said David Ho, owner of Oishi Sushi and Poke Bowl.
He is a master sushi chef who has been perfecting his craft for 25 years. Ho started learning at just 11 years old to support his family after emigrating to Baltimore, Maryland. From there he worked for restaurants and kitchens all over the country.
“A lot of people say it looks really easy, but sushi is a skill,” he said.
Ho still keeps his very first sushi knife from his debut, hidden away in his shop down the hall. He said a good, sharp sushi knife is essential for making great sushi that keeps the juices in the fresh fish.
In the past year alone, he has seen his new business grow into one of many successful businesses in Revolving Kitchen of Garland.
Founder Tyler Shin knows how difficult it can be to get started.
“I was born and raised in Seoul, Korea. I grew up in the industry in that I saw my mom start and run restaurants in Korea,” he shared with NBC 5. “Growing up, I saw my mom struggle a lot with opening and running a restaurant business.”
For this reason, he chose not to follow in his footsteps in the restaurant industry. His family moved to California when he was 12, and he eventually pursued a career in corporate finance after college. After a decade in the business, he moved to Dallas and found business relationships with family owned stores in the area.
“Through this, I realize there is a high demand for commercial kitchen space – people who do catering and meal preparation, people who want to sell desserts to grocery stores and restaurants” , did he declare.
He launched Revolving Kitchen in fall 2019 at Garland with “cloud kitchens” – also known as “ghost kitchen” or “virtual kitchen”. The space provides food businesses with the commercial facilities and services needed to prepare food for delivery and takeout.
“Rather than build a kitchen or two, I decided to build an apartment or a kitchen hotel and rent it out to all sorts of different operators within the food community,” Shin said.
Unlike traditional physical locations, which can be expensive and less accessible for some small businesses, cloud kitchens allow food businesses to create and deliver food without the high cost and stress.
“What would end up happening is that a lot of these contractors have to wear multiple hats. Sometimes they have to be a plumber. Sometimes they have to be a construction guy or have to do janitorial work,” Shin said. “So rather than having chefs distracted and not focused on the business, you provide all the support necessary so that they can focus solely and entirely on the concepts and recipes of the business.
Cloud kitchens opened just before the pandemic. But with the lockdown came a great need for takeaways, a need that many small businesses have been able to grow in the space.
Now, Shin is even prouder of helping entrepreneurs like his own mother – including several Asian-owned businesses – find a path to prosperity in this often unpredictable economy.
“Like my family, a lot of first-generation immigrant families come here, they have more challenges. They have language and cultural barriers,” he said. “Whether you’re from Asia, the Middle East or South America, if your language isn’t English or you haven’t lived here long enough, that’s an added challenge.
The space currently leases 20 kitchen spaces permanently, with five kitchens used at an hourly rate for caterers, bakers and other entrepreneurs who do not need them full-time.
“One of our tenants produces sushi for DFW’s Costco stores,” Shin said. “So whether you’re big or small, it doesn’t matter what you cook – at the end of the day, if you’re in the food business, you need to have a commercial kitchen space.”
Many are keen to share their culture and food with the community, like Purezza’s Nidhi Mittal.
She and owner Lokesh Ashu grind the lentils with stone, the traditional way back home in India. They fill 1,000 boxes a week for delivery to South Asian grocery stores in Texas.
The cloud kitchen space helped her achieve her dream of expansion.
“From the day we started until now, it’s been a long journey. But now we really feel like we’re actually proud of ourselves,” Mittal said. “It’s great that you’ve brought a product here from your home country and you’re able to do that.
Rocky Hamsana’s family is originally from Laos, but he has a deep love for Korean cuisine. At Bop Bop, he prepares Korean barbecue bowls of sweet potato noodles, meat, rice and vegetables to take away or via his food truck. Many are beginners who eat Korean food.
“I get a lot of these customers saying they haven’t tried it and they end up coming back to order more to take home,” he said.
Hamsana added that the opportunities for North Texas businesses seem endless.
“It’s a good feeling because where I’m from, none of that has ever been there. I had to do it all myself and save for it, and just do it,” Hamsana said.
As demand for these flavors increases and more people move to North Texas, Revolving Kitchen now plans to expand into an even larger 35,000 square foot space in the Fairview-Allen area. Collin County has one of the fastest growing Asian American populations in Texas.
The new revolving kitchen location in downtown Fairview will include a food hall with a market and 32 additional kitchen spaces, to allow even more small businesses to thrive.
“The goal is not just, ‘OK, here’s a kitchen, go figure.’ The point is, here’s a kitchen — plus, we have all these different amenities and resources that can help you,” Shin said.
Shin is currently raising capital for further expansion through Republic, a platform that allows retail and accredited investors to put funds into startups, real estate and more. Its goal is to expand to four or five locations and bring some of the businesses from the original Garland location with it.
“I see a lot of growth here just with everyone moving here,” Hamsana said. “Hopefully we can be in every location he plans to open.”
Construction on the new Fairview location begins next week, with plans to open by the end of the year.