Since his news debut last school year, food science senior and creator of pop-up restaurant DENCH, Jimmy Wong has become San Luis Obispo’s resident student-celebrity chef.
Wong swept over the San Luis Obispo food scene, taking part in various events such as the annual Cal Poly Evening of Green and Gold dinner. The success Wong has garnered since his initial media introduction has reached beyond his own expectations.
“When I first started doing the pop-up I thought I’d have to beg my friends each week to come, but I saw how receptive … and supportive people were even after just the first article,” Wong said. “After that, articles kept on coming and it was crazier and crazier.”
Despite appearing in Cal Poly Magazine, The Daily Meal and ABC’s The Chew, Wong said there is one particular event that truly opened his eyes to the magnitude of his success: cooking for President Armstrong last spring.
“Armstrong, sitting at this table, eating two feet away from my bed,” Wong said. “I would always joke about how I was going to cook for Armstrong one day, but I never really thought it was actually going to happen. When you have someone like that right in front of you, it [is] like, ‘Oh shoot.’”
Toward the end of summer, one of the executive board members of TedX in San Luis Obispo contacted Wong to speak at their upcoming fall event. Wong spent the next few months preparing for the talk and was even set up with a speaker coach to help guide his speech. The TedX event focused on student stories, ranging anywhere from five to 17 minutes.
“The title of my talk was ‘Food, Identity and Kung Fu Panda’ — the holy trinity. I was able to share more about my story,” Wong said. “It was crazy meeting all the other speakers and the event itself was super high production. I am just really happy with how it turned out and really grateful that it happened.”
Currently, Wong has put his pop-up restaurant DENCH aside to focus on some bigger projects, including a cookbook for his senior project.
“It’s going to be all the recipes and stories from the pop-up and I’m trying to self-publish and get it printed,” Wong said. “I’m really excited to be able to really share all the stories and show people what I’ve done with the pop-up in a tangible way.”
Wong has been contacting local businesses in pursuit of holding pop-ups for DENCH to accommodate more than he currently can with his constrained apartment capacity.
Through all his accomplishments, Wong remains dedicated to his work ethic by expanding his creativity and skill set.
“There’s so many areas I want to grow as a cook,” Wong said. “I want to keep working at restaurants, whether that be going back to San Francisco [after graduation] or going abroad to, like, Paris or Hong Kong. No immediate plans, but the end goal is still to open up my own place — how I [will] get there, I’m not sure.”
The support and loving embrace the San Luis Obispo community has given Wong boasts a strong foundation for future endeavors.
“I’m super thankful from the support for this community and Cal Poly,” Wong said. “I’m just really grateful for that and I’m excited to see where this takes me and what I can do with it.”