We had the good fortune of connecting with Moni Lam and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Moni, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
INOMONI Vegan was unofficially conceived in 2010 when Chef Moni’s Mother and Sister created the first version of Our now Best Selling Vegan Siu Mai (Pork & Mushroom Dumpling). It was just an idea then but with no formal training or experience in the Restaurant Industry, both Mama INOM and Chef Moni used to merely daydream of one day opening their own Restaurant/ Cafe. After a 9 year stint as a Fashion Designer, Chef Moni made the leap in 2018 to pursue Small Business in the Food Industry. We (Chef Moni tends to use the Royal “We” and “Their/Them” when referring to INOMONI) started with a Meal Prep and Catering Concept not specifying in Dim Sum. But soon, We decided to revisit our Family Siu Mai Recipe and decided to rework it. Very quickly after finalizing the Siu Mai recipe, We had to include another Classic Dim Sum dish, Har Gow (Crystal Shrimp Dumpling). And what’s Dim Sum without Variety? Within a week, We had an 8 item Menu uploaded to Yelp despite not finalizing all the recipes. Some recipes were still piece-together brainstorms when we started getting a flood of requests for orders and deliveries. We always figured Vegan Dim Sum in Los Angeles needed to happen, but there weren’t really people tackling this Genre—and if they were, not well enough. Most places that offered anything remotely Vegetarian Dim Sum had shut its doors by the time INOMONI Vegan officially launched. So We found ourselves in the eye of the Storm—half knowingly but not fully expecting it. In a way, one can say Chef Moni stumbled upon a Gold Mine, but Our approach has always been guided with deep Intuition, Foresight, and Proactive/Reactive methods. We really focus on the Nostalgia of Traditional Dim Sum based on our own memories and taste buds. We personally have not eaten meat in over 18 years, but the Taste of Dim Sum is still so vivid in our minds, and we aim to bring them back into reality–Veganized. We also have a passion for innovating the Dim Sum arena, so we have slowly incorporated some Dim Sum Nouveau items. INOMONI Vegan currently remains Solely Owned and Operated by Chef Moni alone. We definitely have to wear Multiple hats aside from our Chef Hat!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
It may seem like a huge disconnect to many people on how we became a Chef and Owner to a Vegan Food Concept, as we had trained our entire life in the Art and Design field. We have a Fashion Degree from Parsons The New School of Design and worked that Industry as a Designer for 9 years before leaving it in favor of more Creative and Professional Freedom. During the time we decided to leave our secure 9 to 5 Career, we were going through some Personal Turmoil and Ideological conflict within ourselves. We were witnessing Deaths of close Family and Relatives meanwhile battling our own innate Nihilistic view of life, and it really forced us to confront our need for deeper meaning in this World. Our desire to spread Love, Compassion, and more Sustainable and Ethical alternatives in the World became Our driving force. There were definitely obstacles from the time We left Our Career till now. Our Business is still new but its performing quite well given the 2020 Circumstances, but we did have some personal challenges we faced to get where we are. We lost some significant personal relationships. We still have a lot to learn about Work-Life Balance, because there often isn’t any. And more importantly, We’re learning to build a Business from Scratch with absolutely no connections or guidance in the Food and Beverage Industry. However, funnily enough, We have found a lot of our experience in all Design, Manufacturing, and Production of Apparel to be quite transferable in our approach to our Business.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We would recommend taking a stroll on Venice Beach, Old Town Pasadena, as well as the Grove. Other fun destinations may include the hiking and then swinging by Griffith Observatory or Santa Monica Pier. If they’re looking for some interesting Asian Cultural Scenes, try Chinatown, Koreatown, and Little Tokyo, which now has an eclectic food scene with newer and trendier concepts. But in Our opinon, the San Gabriel Valley still wins as one of the few Cultural Bubbles that have maintained a high standard of food quality. Most eateries are still shockingly affordable without compromising taste.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
We’d like to give a Shoutout to Our Mom and Sister for being the initial Recipe Creators of Our Vegan Siu Mai. They both are endlessly supportive and occasionally provide a helping hand to Our Business. Their approaches to Life and their Work Ethic are things to admire and aspire.