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10 Questions with Chef … Arnold Eric Wong
Susan Dyer Reynolds

Chef Arnold Eric WongArnold Eric Wong grew up in the Haight-Ashbury district working at the Ashbury Market, his family’s venerable store and wine shop. This also set the stage for Wong’s impressive career – his first job cooking for the public was in the market’s delicatessen.

While attending the California Culinary Academy, Wong took a pastry chef position at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. This led to stints at the highly regarded Masa’s and Pacific Heights favorite, Café Kati. It was at Café Kati, under the tutelage of trendsetting chef Kirk Webber, that Wong’s style took a strong direction. In 1995, he opened his first restaurant, Eos, in Cole Valley, conceived from intimate wine pairing parties he hosted with Debbie Zachareas, who became the wine director for the restaurant. Almost immediately, Wong gained recognition as a pioneer in Asian fusion cuisine. In 2000, Wong and Zachareas opened Bacar to more rave reviews.

In November 2008, Wong was appointed executive chef of E&O Trading Company. Along with being responsible for the culinary direction of its four locations (Union Square in San Francisco, Larkspur, San Jose, and Honolulu), Wong became a partner in the company’s management branch, BlueWater Restaurant Group, where he will help oversee expansion and development of new concepts, including the possible launch of a pan-Asian-inspired national fast-casual chain. His new menu debuted at the Union Square location March 31 and features new dishes ranging from small plates like butternut squash dumplings with red curry lemongrass sauce, beef short rib sliders, and green onion fry bread with mango raita to entrees including Sichuan-marinated beef with wood-grilled kim chee, wood over roasted oolong tea pekin duck breast, and black cod with sautéed pea tendrils.
Fun fact: Wong and his wife purchased an RV a month after going to Burning Man for the first time and want to attend the event every year.

Last thing you cooked for yourself?
Shiro miso-roasted local sea bass, sautéed kale and steamed haiga rice, plus three bottles of wine (OK, there were four of us).

Favorite foods from your childhood?
Roasted Italian chestnuts and steamed, salt-cured chicken.

How would you describe working in your kitchen?
Relaxed, efficient and educational.

Something in your ’fridge or freezer that would surprise people?
Breast milk (we just had a baby in May 2008), 20 pounds of duck fat, and other random large quantities of baking products.

A meal or a dish that, as a young chef, was an inspiration or a revelation?
Tea smoking a chicken at 10 years old without adult supervision! It was disastrous for the curtains, but it tasted great.

Last restaurants you ate at?
Range (I love the honest food) and Aziza (I love all the muddled cocktails).

The dishes on your menu that will follow you wherever you go?
Shiitake mushroom dumplings, “Bananamisu,” and tea-smoked Peking duck breast.

Favorite offal?
Calf’s liver sautéed with smoked bacon.

What are your guilty pleasures?
American cheese and sleeping in.

What would your last meal on earth be and where would you have it?
It would be in the flat where I grew up with all of my mother’s best dishes … steamed, salt-cured chicken; hand-chopped pork and duck sausage; whole steamed fish; chawanmushi (when she would make it without the dried baby shrimp); pixie tangerines (from the Ojai area only – they are the best!); Chinese sticky rice; and shark’s fin or bird’s nest soup. To be politically correct, I don’t eat shark’s fin anymore, but I would make an exception for my last meal.

E&O Trading Company: 314 Sutter Street (at Grant), Mon.–Thu. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat. to 11:30a.m.–11p.m., Sunday 5–9:30 p.m.; 415-693-0303,

Have a favorite chef you’d like to see interviewed? Send your suggestions to

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