We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenn Kwong and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenn, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
One of the largest aspects of my life that has changed in the past couple years is how important my work life balance is. I would regularly work until 11pm, work on my days off (still do sometimes…eek), and check emails right when I wake up. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but I’m working on creating and keeping boundaries. I lost my job at the beginning of the pandemic and it made me wish I didn’t kill myself over work and dedicate so much of my time to work instead of spending that time for myself or with family and friends.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am currently the owner of Kwong Shop and ready-to-wear/denim designer at a LA based fashion brand. I’ve been in the fashion industry for 10 years working at brands based in New York and California. I have always wanted to work with food and wanted to meld my design background with food. I launched Kwong Shop early this year, after several years of planning and development. With Kwong Shop, I want to share foods that I grew up with that I put my own spin on and also creating plant-based foods. After working in the fashion industry, I have personally seen the negative impact the industry has had on the world by the amount of waste it produces (similar to agricultural practices). I knew I wanted to create plant-based food for that reason and show that plant-based foods can be just as delicious as animal-based foods. I think the biggest challenge of launching Kwong Shop was actually putting myself out there. I overcame that by telling myself that I would regret it if I never tried to do anything with food. Food brings an incredible amount of joy into my life and I wanted the things that I create for Kwong Shop to emote that. My thought process behind both apparel and food are similar. I like reflecting my design process with recipe development. Both processes, I start with concept, inspiration, and color palette. Food and fashion are similar in my opinion. For apparel, I look at what has been trending in the market, what people are wearing, and collections in the past. For food, I also look at what foods are “trending” and dishes that I grew up eating.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love this questions! I have a “Note” on my phone with a giant list of restaurants/things to do in Los Angeles.Where would we eat drink? I live walking distance from Little Ethiopia so Ethiopian is a MUST. My favorites are Meals By Genet and Merkato. For large gatherings, I love The Prince in Koreatown and Lunasia for Dim Sum. Other must tries is Lasitas in Chinatown, Leos Taco Truck in Echo Park, Northern Thai Food Club in Thai Town, Izakaya Osen in Silverlake, Newport Seafood in San Gabriel, Grand Central Market, The Prince in Koreatown (good for large groups), CHA CHA CHA in Arts District, Lettuce Feast (vegan fried chicken sandwiches), and Lunasia in Alhambra.For coffee/breakfast/sweets – Paradocs Coffee and Tea, Proof Bakery, Phoenix BakeryHiking – anywhere in Malibu,, griffith park, trails off the 2Museums – Getty, LACMA, Broad, Hauser + Wirth (Manuela for food/drinks), Petersen Automotive Museum, Huntington LibraryBars – 1642, Stella, Semi-Tropic, Bar FloresShows – Hollywood bowl, comedy showsOther things to do: Rose bowl, vintage shops: Scout, Squaresville, Jet Rag, drive on the PCH, nurseries – Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery to see bonsai collection, tropics to check out plant gallery, Mickey Hargitay nursery.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to dedicate this shoutout to my parents and my popo (grandma in Chinese). My popo sparked my love for food and cooking. She taught me how to cook when I was 5 years old. Every Sunday, I spent the day making ha gow dumplings with her and she taught me how to fold dumplings. She is the reason why I have always had a passion for creating delicious foods. I would also like to give a shoutout to my parents. They opened their first restaurant, Sizzling Wok, over 30 years ago in Cincinnati, Ohio and expanded to three locations. I grew up going there after school with my siblings and eventually started helping out as I got older. My parents are super inspiring and it was amazing to see how hard they worked to have a successful restaurant. My parents and my popo showed me how food brings connection, joy, and nourishment to people you love.
All images provided by Kwong Shop