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What is your favorite part of being a restaurant owner in Asheville?
Certainly, serving, nourishing and giving back to the community in which I grew up. Asheville is a wonderful city that has changed so much since I was young and to be a part of defining that direction in food and beyond is very important. In my view, people are drawn here because of community and choose to stay here for the very same reason. Being able to cook for and hose the people I care about most and also welcome new people into that fold is extremely special. I’m very fortunate.
What is the background of your restaurant’s name?
Gan Shan is a loose Chinese translation for “Sunset Mountain.” The restaurant itself is located right at the base of Sunset Mountain and it is also the mountain on which I grew up. Ties into my personal history and community history, which is what the restaurant is all about.
What ingredient could you not live without?
Salt. No question. Without salt food is typically bland. Salt breathes life and flavor into everything it touches.
Other than salt, we use a LOT of a chopped garlic/ginger mix. It’s one of our “cheats” to bring flavor and depth to our cooking.
What is your favorite dish on your menu?
Currently, as we move into spring, I really like the Korean cabbage wraps. It is such a refreshing summer dish with lots of different textures and flavors. It is a really fresh dish in the way it lands on the palate. A healthy, wonderful dish for the spring into summer.
What is your favorite dish from a fellow AIR restaurant’s menu?
Corn pudding from Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack. Yes, undeniably, the chicken is great at Rocky’s and for those of us that crave spicy food it is great to have that option, but in my mind what makes Rocky’s stand out is their sides. I think about that corn pudding often and will go there just to get that, with the chicken as an afterthought.
Also, Curate’s Enslada Rusa. I rarely ever go (b/c it’s so damn busy and I hate reservations), but the ensalada rusa is by far the best potato salad I’ve ever had. I thought so when I worked there and 5 years later continue to believe the same.
Why did you choose Asheville to open your restaurant?
Home field advantage? I grew up here. The pull of the mountains is strong and although I left for about a decade, I came back. Family and the mountains. Also, at that time, Asheville didn’t have the type of Asian food that I wanted to do. There are and were good Asian restaurants around, but none that really spoke to the flavors I had in mind and that were consciously working with local farms and changing the menu often. I wanted to cook the food that I wanted to eat and Asheville didn’t have that at the time.
What is your favorite chef’s tool and why?
Favorite tool? Oh, goodness…. You’re talking to a gadget guy. I could go on and on about kitchen tools and brands…
I love a tool, any tool, that is perfectly designed for it’s purpose. Using the right tool for the job is extremely important. A few indispensable tools that come to mind are: a great knife, a gray kunz spoon, large plating tweezers, a small silicon spatula, TAPE (blue painters tape for labeling), a great apron. More expensive indispensable tools are a Vitamix, robot coupe (food processor), pasta roller, primo or some type of ceramic grill.