Keegan Fong, Woon Kitchen

Los Angeles, CA

Morning routing with Keegan Fong of Woon Kitchen

Keegan Fong is the founder of Woon — a Chinese restaurant that's so much more than a restaurant. Woon's official inception came sometime in 2013, but its roots go back to Keegan's childhood. His mom, Julie Chen (A.K.A. Mama Fong), was always cooking up her original takes on recipes inspired by her Shanghainese & Cantonese roots. Their home in Los Angeles became like a hub for Keegan and his siblings' friends, because Mama Fong would always whip up delicious food — no matter the time of day or night!Julie had always dreamed of having a restaurant, and Keegan wanted to help bring it to life; to share his mom's passion with the world.

After working professionally in marketing for a few years, Keegan saw an opportunity and — in the span of one month — created Woon as a pop-up noodle stand at an annual art market run by his uncle and cousin. It was a true family affair, with his sister designing the logo and his brother-in-law helping Keegan and his mom make the food.

Keegan and his mom have basically been selling out of noodles ever since! They continued operating as a pop-up business until 2018, when they opened their location in Historic Filpinotown. In addition to their story, Woon's menu, brand, hospitality and community involvement all play a crucial part in defining the unique & beloved fixture of LA it has become.

Having first gotten to know Keegan from being in the neighborhood (our old office was down the street from Woon in Historic Filipinotown!) we wanted to learn and share a bit more about his perspective as a creative and business owner. So we headed over to his place in Silver Lake with our friend Justin Chung for some coffee on a recent morning. We hope you enjoy!
Do you have a daily or morning ritual?

I’d prefer to have a more regular ritual, but lately it’s determined by what errands or projects I have in the morning. I definitely try to exercise daily whether it’s swimming laps at the YMCA or going for a run around the Silverlake Reservoir. It’s the only way to clear my head and sets the energy for the rest of the day. Having that one constant thing helps create some normalcy in a crazy day-to-day life.
We know growing your own business (especially a restaurant) can be all-consuming! How do you keep balanced (as much as that’s possible!) and motivated?

I knew going into this business that it’d be a lot of work, but I honestly never imagined it would be this much! I’ve always dreamt of having my own business and I think that is motivation in itself. I asked for the opportunity to build something, so any moment I’m not working on it I feel like I’m cheating myself. It helps that what I do is fun for me…whether it’s sharing our story, creating new products, or even solving a problem in the kitchen to make things more efficient. Those are all challenging problems that are fun to solve. In terms of balance, I try as much as I can to make time for myself and my personal life. I usually dedicate one day a week to golf with friends and we like to play outside of LA so it feels like more of a getaway. Exercising in the mornings is also a form of self-care and meditation for me.
What are a few of your favorite or most fulfilling aspects of owning and growing Woon?

This is tough…everything about Woon has been fulfilling. Definitely being able to share my mom’s story and her food. She’s always dreamt of having a restaurant, and whether she likes it or not, I threw her into the lime light. I think she’s finally getting the credit she deserves…she is just an amazing and unique woman. There’s a reason why she was called Mama Fong growing up.

The fact that I’ve been able to bring so many of my friends and family I admire into Woon is also really fulfilling to me. I love being able to work with friends and build new friendships and I think Woon has just been this huge web of people that has brought us all together.

Of course, being able to actually create jobs and build a staff that I can pay a living wage to is always going to blow my mind. It still trips me out to think that I actually made something that can pay a team of people to live. I know that sounds so simple and also so dumb. But to me, it still blows my mind. Our staff is so damn cool and every person works so hard…it’s so awesome to be able to have everyone contribute to something like Woon and reward them for that.
What do you feel have been (or are currently!) the most challenging aspects?

It’s hard…all of it. The day to day problem solving will never go away and I think it’s just the compilation of it all that makes it so challenging. Every little problem that comes up just piles into a big one. But that’s also why I love this job because every little problem creates a solution and having that many solutions is pretty damn fulfilling.

The pressure you have to keep customers and people happy. I always want 100% of customers to have the best possible experience and it’s a challenge to do that.

It’s also stressful to build a long term future and plan for bigger and better things with Woon…but the priority is to always keep the wheels on this car before I can even own a new one. So that’s a challenge…knowing how much more I want to do, but also knowing that I don’t physically have the capacity or resources to do those things yet.

Lastly, it’s just the crazy shit that comes along with owning a brick and mortar in Los Angeles…break-ins (I’ve had several), sinks falling on the floor (happened yesterday), graffiti to clean up (yesterday, too), kitchen equipment breaking down (always). ●
More from the interview with Keegan at Canyon Coffee.

Woon Kitchen
Morning Ritual Series