Specialty Food Magazine


Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 73 of 139

Live. Billed as the Chinese version of Eataly in New York, this food hall, which first opened its doors last March, continues to evolve and open new concepts, all the brainchild of owner and executive chef George Chen. "I wanted to create a hub for Chinese food," says Chen. "I felt Japanese food had gotten a lot of attention and Chinese food has always been looked down on—as something with big portions that comes in a box. But that's not what Chinese food is all about. I want to educate the public a little bit about what Chinese food can be and to change perceptions of it." Twenty years ago, he aimed to do this with his highly successful—now closed—Bay Area restaurant Betelnut, he says. The first part of China Live to open—after years of speculation—was the marketplace, which offers 1,500 square feet of space. Half of this is given over to the retail area selling kitchenware, tableware, shelf-stable foods, and fresh produce. Many of the food products come from China and are not otherwise available in the U.S., which was important to Chen. In fact, he displays about 1,000 items at any given time, which is only a fraction of his total inventory. Products include whiskey barrel-aged fish sauce, custom teapots, and star fruit vinegar. The other half of this f loor features a 120-seat, full-service casual Market Restaurant with four cooking areas; the Oolong Café, a tea salon with fresh baked goods and tea sourced from Taiwan; and Bar Central, serving beer, wine, and Chinese-inspired cocktails. Next up will be a glassed-in rooftop lounge, scheduled to open in summer 2018, private dining on the third f loor, and eventually there will be five bars in the building—one on each f loor. Chen aims to educate visitors by showcasing Chinese ingredients through food demon- strations, tastings, and classes. So far, the best-selling products are the house-made private- label sauces like chili sauce. "I believe you have to show people these are what you're using in the restaurants and they have to know what the ingredients are and be able to use them at home, too," he says. He also hopes to make clear to patrons that Chinese food shouldn't be cheap. "Eight Tables is my attempt to show Chinese food can be as fine and elevated as any cuisine in the world," he says. "I want to show that not everything comes out of a wok." The food, he says, is "traditional with modern interpretations." For example, he uses some Western products like truff les, caviar, and foie gras "but it's not fusion," he stresses. The food, he says, is "hyper-seasonal," and he's at work on a vegetarian menu. It's too early to say whether the sit-down restaurants or the retail segments will be the driver of sales at China Live, though Chen says, "the marketplace has the biggest growth potential and will be the revenue driver because it is open all day, every day." However, since Eight Tables has a set menu, he says there's no waste, so even though the tables don't turn, the profits are good.—A.B. THE EPICUREAN TRADER: A FOCUS ON SMALL- BATCH PRODUCTS In these days where much of the emphasis is on local, husband-and-wife team Mat Pond and Holly McDell are taking a different tack with their two Epicurean Trader stores in San Francisco. Their goal is to feature the best of small-batch artisan products from across America. "Chinese food has always been looked down on—as something with big portions that comes in a box. But that's not what Chinese food is all about." EPICUREAN TRADER Cow Hollow/Marina 1909A Union St. and Bernal Heights 401 Cortland Ave. San Francisco, CA theepicureantrader.com PHOTOS: CHINALIVE WINTER 2018 71

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