A college student in San Luis Obispo, California is paying his way through school by running his own fine-dining pop-up right in his college apartment at California Polytechnic State University.
Despite not having any formal culinary training, 20-year-old Jimmy Wong is able to successfully run his restaurant called “DENCH” after spending his high school summer vacations studying with pastry chefs at Michelin star restaurants.
In an interview with The Daily Meal, Wong revealed that he learned most of his kitchen techniques as a teenager shadowing pastry chefs at Chez TJ and Plumed Horse, both of which have a Michelin star rating.
According to the food science major, he also gained experience and inspiration to open his own place after spending time at Lazy Bear, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco which also began as a pop-up.
Wong cited pastry chefs Francisco Migoya (Modernist Cuisine), Janice Wong (2am:dessertbar), and Melissa Chou (Master Jiu’s) among his culinary inspirations.
“Coming into college, it was always on my bucket list to do pop-up dinners for people after seeing people in other schools run successful pop-up restaurants out of their college apartments,” Wong was quoted as saying. “It wasn’t until I got my own studio that I realized it was possible for me to do the dinners.”
POP-UP ALERT! I started a pop-up restaurant out of my studio in SLO! It’s now open for reservations through 10/21. I serve a 5-7 course pre-fixe menu that showcases some of San Luis Obispo’s finest seasonal and local produce. Trust me, bread and fish so good even Jesus would have eaten it before he could feed the 5,000. DENCH. is open Saturdays at 7pm and seats 4 people at a communal table. Grab three of your friends and make your reservation for undoubtedly one of the denchest meals of your life! Link to the restaurant reservation webpage in my bio! #dench
Wong, who began serving customers at his home with a $45 five- to seven-course tasting menu in September 2017, said he plans to operate his pop-up for the rest of his college career.
Ingredients used in DENCH are sourced from local farmers’ markets on a weekly basis to ensure the food is organic and always fresh.
“I create dishes based on the seasonality of ingredients and try to really showcase the ingredients and who I am on the plate,” said Wong.
While DENCH serves a variety of dishes ranging from beef ribeye to shishito poppers, customers have come to enjoy the sweet deserts more, which highlights Wong’s pastry expertise.
One of the customer favorites is Wong’s Hokkaido-style milk bread roll brushed with melted butter, topped with Maldon sea salt, and served with local cultured butter.
DENCH accepts reservations for up to four people on Saturdays at 7 p.m. through Wong’s website, but it is best to check out his Instagram @jwongdynasty for reservation availability announcements since seats sell out quickly.
Featured Image via Instagram / jwongdynasty