You can see it on each main avenue and inside each procuring middle in Los Angeles. It is available in many sizes and shapes, provides many various services and products, and is on the market in all kinds of flavors.    

“It” is The American Dream. And nowhere is that this dream extra vibrant than in Southern California’s eating scene the place, for generations, immigrants have introduced their conventional flavors from far and large to create a wealthy tapestry of culinary experiences.   

Within the early Sixties, Kai Tai Chang and his spouse, Could, determined to depart behind political instability in Hong Kong and migrate to Los Angeles in the hunt for a greater future for themselves and their 4 kids.   

May and Kai Tai Chang
Could and Kai Tai Chang (Nick Chang)

On the identical day their airplane landed at LAX, Kai Tai started on the lookout for work in Chinatown. Alternatives within the meals trade rapidly materialized.   

“He labored three jobs to feed the household,” remembers Elaina Chang, Kai Tai’s daughter-in-law. “He would go to work at one restaurant within the morning, then go work on the farmer’s market in the midst of the afternoon, after which work at one other restaurant till midnight or early morning, day in and day trip, to herald sufficient revenue for the household.”   

A type of eating places was the Phoenix Inn at Ord and New Excessive streets the place Kai Tai was employed as a chef.   

A decade later, he was offered with the chance to buy the Phoenix Inn from the retiring proprietor who appreciated his sturdy work ethic.   

“Cooks have the kind of persona the place they’ll get upset and stroll out very simply. My father-in-law was very dependable, and he wasn’t going wherever. So, they grew to become good buddies,” says Elaina.

Whereas many individuals affiliate the Phoenix with Greek mythology, it additionally performs a distinguished position in Chinese language mythology because the benevolent feminine counterpart to the dragon.   

Chinatown Phoenix Inn
Chinatown Phoenix Inn. Los Angeles, California. (Phoenix Meals & Dessert)

“Phoenix” had been the restaurant’s title because the Sixties, but it surely took on a larger that means to the household when Could Chang started working there alongside her husband. 

“She was the one on the entrance of the restaurant, speaking to the shoppers, remembering their names and orders,” says grandson Nick Chang. “With out her presence, it might not have been as profitable because it was on the time.”   

For the subsequent twenty years, the Changs continued to construct a loyal following by this dedication to customized customer support, to their loyal workers, and, after all, recent, scrumptious meals. 

Within the mid-Nineteen Nineties, nonetheless, Kai Tai started to undergo from well being points and misplaced imaginative and prescient in a single eye. It was time for the subsequent technology to hold the Phoenix title ahead.   

In 1997, Elaina and her husband, Tom, a CPA who had been conserving the books for the Chinatown restaurant, opened one other location in Alhambra. In addition they started to increase on menu objects that Chinese language eating places within the U.S. aren’t sometimes recognized for – desserts.   

“In the future, a buyer requested me what sort of dessert we had, almond cookie or pink bean soup?” she laments. “So, I assumed, after a heavy Chinese language dinner, you don’t have any pleasure. Why can’t we’ve one thing scrumptious like we had in Hong Kong.”  

Phoenix Chinese Food
Assorted dishes from the Phoenix eating places. (Phoenix Meals & Dessert)

Elaina started providing basic Asian desserts together with mochi, custard, crepes and loads of recent fruit. She even studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena to additional hone her sweet-making expertise.  

It was successful. The household opened a devoted dessert store subsequent to the Alhambra restaurant in 2002.   

Elaina’s confections even acquired the stamp of approval from esteemed L.A. pastry chef and writer George Geary, who featured Phoenix in his e-book, L.A.’s Landmark Eating places.

“I give Elaina loads of credit score for returning to high school to study expertise she felt she lacked to open up the pastry division,” Geary stated. “Most attend culinary college not realizing that you just want the drive and keenness Elaina has.”

The Changs opened a brand new restaurant almost yearly for a decade – all within the Los Angeles space. Whereas many eating places struggled and did not survive the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, Phoenix persevered by take-out and supply service, together with deliveries to hospital employees on the entrance strains.   

“We didn’t shut for sooner or later,” says Elaina.   

In 2023, Phoenix opened its thirteenth location in San Diego’s Clairemont Mesa neighborhood. New areas are additionally deliberate for Irvine and San Jose, and probably past California’s borders.    

When one thinks of Chinese language meals chains, Panda Specific or Decide Up Stix (each SoCal-based) may first come to thoughts. However Phoenix is neither quick meals nor “quick informal.” It’s distinctly gourmand with recent components and recipes which have been handed on for generations.  

Phoenix Corporate Headquarters & Commissary Kitchen
Phoenix company headquarters & commissary kitchen in Rosemead, California. (Phoenix Meals & Dessert)

Nick Chang, who earned a level in Economics from U.C. Berkeley, an MBA from Columbia Enterprise Faculty, and labored in enterprise analytics at KPMG, grew to become president of the household enterprise in 2021. 

His future on the helm, he says, was by no means unsure.   

“Ever since I used to be an adolescent, I knew I wished to do that,” Nick says. “It was simply in regards to the timing. My mother and father by no means pushed me.” 

The problem of opening a restaurant in San Diego means Nick is on the street continually, driving backwards and forwards from L.A. to Clairemont Mesa, visitors complications and all. He is aware of the success of Phoenix’s enlargement rests on its means to take care of constant high quality and a excessive stage of customer support – all with a private contact. 

“There was a buyer that got here into the San Diego restaurant the opposite day and he acknowledged considered one of our managers from the Monterey Park location and that supervisor remembered the man’s standard order to the tee,” Nick says. “That buyer lit up with pleasure. It’s about remembering the client and the group that makes all of it price it.” 

Kai Tai Chang handed away in 2015. Could died in November 2020. Each lived to see their American Dream fulfilled and their legacy illuminated with Phoenix indicators and glad prospects throughout the Southland and shortly past. 

“We’re proud,” Elaina says. “We nonetheless stand behind the model and maintain going.”