Communal Pop Up Kitchens and the Pandemic with Ange Branca
Eli Kulp: [00:00:00] Hey everyone. Eli here. Welcome back to the CHEF Radio Podcast. We have a great one today. Ange Branca of Saté Kampar fame, and now Kampar Kitchen is joining us today. Uh, let’s see, what’s happened since last time we talked, uh, not too much, I guess. Let’s see. Oh, our capital got invaded, our president, such a peach, that he got impeached twice, so good for him. And, Oh, we have a new president happy new president of day, everybody. So that’s great.
I have to say that it’s been a wild ride last four years. I’m pissed off about so much of what he did to divide this country. And it’s so sad, no way to pick up the pieces and listen, I think it’s incumbent on everybody to say, Hey. I want to have a better country than what was, what we currently have. And I want to work towards that, you know, talk to your friends on either side of the political aisle and say, listen, you know, we have to come together. We have to do better than this right now. Our country is, uh, [00:01:00] essentially a flaming bag of dog shit, and we need to control it and get it under control.
I think it’s like, we’re, we’re going to do a braise, our cook, a braise, but no, we have it under the broiler and 500 degrees and rip it away. That’s what it’s like right now. No, we had turned that down. We had turned that temperature down, people get that into like 225, 250 simmer down, slow simmer bubble bubble bubble, not, uh, like blowing up a pressure cooker because that’s where we are right now.
So, you know, if everybody can, Oh man, just do your part. Do your part, you know, reach out to four or five people and say, listen, I want to talk to you. I want to know about your thought process. I want to know why you think this way. I need to understand it better because that’s what we have to do people. We have to understand each other a little bit better.
So let’s get talking about Ange. Ange is incredible woman, incredible story and journey into the food industry. She doesn’t have any sort of traditional background or training. [00:02:00] Um, her training was her mother and her grandmother back in Malaysia. Um, and you know, she gifted us with Saté Kampar in Philadelphia.
And when I first tasted her food, I was absolutely blown away. Uh, you know, the sate cooked over the coconut, uh, charcoal that she imports from, uh, Malaysia directly. The, you know, the different sambal sauces that she has, uh, just incredible and just the flavors, uh, you know, that sort of Southeast Asian palate that we all love just came through.
And not only that, but you can just see her love for it. She’s just amazing in the dining room, so friendly all the time. And we’re lucky enough to talk to her today. We talked for a long time. So we had to cut some stuff out. If you want to hear the, an edited podcast, go to patreon.com uh, search for the CHEF Radio Podcast and you can listen to the whole thing, a lot of great content there, and we’re going to start posting a lot more up there.
So if you want to help support the show on Patreon, uh, we’d love to have [00:03:00] you a part of it. And you know, you go on patreon.com, check it out and yeah, listen away. So let’s get to the show.
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All right, everybody here we are again in the studio. Well, we’ll call it the virtual studio cause we are doing this over zoom. So if they are of poor sound quality, you can [00:04:00] take it up with zoom, but we’re going to do our best, uh, in the, uh, in the circumstances. So, yeah. Uh, CHEF Radio Podcast, we’re really excited to have our next guest on today.
I’m talking about chef Ange Branca of Saté Kampar and Kampar Kitchen. Ange, welcome to the CHEF Radio Podcast. How are you today?
Ange Branca: [00:04:18] Thank you, Eli. I’m good. I’m good.
Eli Kulp: [00:04:22] So to give the audience a little bit of background on you, I’m going to sort of rip through your, um, your bio, your history in a few seconds here.
And, you know, I think what people are going to take away from this is that, you know, you did not do this in a conventional method of, of coming into it, uh, being a chef. So Ange, you know, you are a former global, uh, consultant. Uh, you worked at a business strategy, uh, as a partner at IBM, you were a senior director at Fujitsu and it senior manager at Deloitte. Um, Deloitte is all these companies [00:05:00] are international, uh, big corporations.
Once you opened Saté Kampar, you know, some of the more notable, um, accolades that kind of came your way relatively quickly is that, uh, early on in 2016, uh, Craig Liban awarded you two bells, and then a year later he came back and up that to three bells. So that was, that was pretty exciting. I’m sure. Uh, you also were on Craig’s, uh, best restaurants of the last decade that was in 2020. He wrote that. So between 2010 and 2020, uh, which is awesome.
You are a James Beard semi-finalists that was in 2017. Uh, we’re going to talk a little bit about that. You were awarded best BYO in Philadelphia in 2016, you’ve been on the Philadelphia magazine’s top 50 list multiple times. And also you were noted as one of the 10, most important restaurants in Philadelphia by [00:06:00] Zagat. So that was a mouthful and all of that has been done within the last four years, which is incredible. Um, so when I say that kind of, how does that make you feel? Like what, what kind of comes up.
Ange Branca: [00:06:16] So it’s a little surreal, um, you know, to think about, um, that when you said in the last four years, I was like, really, it it’s only been four years cause it felt like eternity, but, um, yeah, but I’m very grateful. Couldn’t couldn’t ask for more.
Eli Kulp: [00:06:32] That’s great. So you are not American, uh, you are you hail from Malaysia, um, and you know, your story is incredible. And I want to talk a little bit about, you know, your early work in the, in the corporate world, your education, your background. Can you give us a sense of. Um, you know, [00:07:00] your upbringing and how you got into, you know, where you went to university then before your career started taking off? Yeah.
Ange Branca: [00:07:09] Yeah. Sure, sure. And so I was, I was born in Malaysia, in the Southern part of Malaysia, specifically uh Johor. Which is very close to Singapore because at that time my dad was working in Singapore and as well when I was born, but, but I grew up predominantly in Kale and that’s the capital of the country.
Um, as you guys all know Kompar, um, you know, the brand of our restaurant, it is actually a small town, North of Kale, North of Kuala Lumpur. And, and that’s a tin mining town because my family were tin miners. Uh, back in the day, uh I’m I am the fifth generation Chinese in America and my, um, uh, ancestors from my dad’s side, as well as my mom’s side came to Malaysia during [00:08:00] the tin mining era where a lot of the, um, Chinese, um, uh, uh, laborers would come and work the mines, uh, for the British at that time.
So, so Kompar is it’s the tiny little town, um, that my entire family comes from. And I was one of the first, uh, from the family to grow up outside of Kompar. Um, and, and that’s kinda why, you know, I, I, I w I’m one of the first little kids who, uh, who had this, uh, country life, city life, you know, thing, because we always had to go back, you know, my dad was the first to leave for the big city, so we always had to go back to the small little country every time.
Um, so growing up, uh, was, was, uh, very different for me in, in, in a big city. And my family was the first to move to this big city. Um, but I, um, I was fortunate enough to, uh, to have a good [00:09:00] education because we were, we were in the city and I’ve always, um, uh, grown up in convent schools, uh, in a city with, you know, good English education. So, um, so I, I, you know, I could speak, uh, um, I could speak English since I was a little kid and, and that got me, um, later on a good study grant to study in a UK. So, um, yeah, so I, um, I went to, I, I did my, um, A levels college. It was just kind of like the British, uh, uh, education is all very British, so, A levels, um, Like college, like, uh, uh, matriculation.
Right? So, so, um, I did that with, um, Cambridge university A levels, and then, uh, moved on to, um, uh, go to university in Scotland.
Eli Kulp: [00:09:55] Oh, wow, Scotland.
Ange Branca: [00:09:56] Yeah. Scotland. Yeah.
Eli Kulp: [00:09:58] That’s a long way [00:10:00] from Malaysia.
Ange Branca: [00:10:01] It is a long way from Malaysia. Yeah. I love it though. I, yeah, the, um, that was that, that wasn’t the first time I traveled out of the country. My, um, uh, but it was. It was definitely the first time I had to like, you know, live by myself outside of the country. So, yeah. So it was slightly different.
Eli Kulp: [00:10:22] Yeah. Slightly different cuisine than Malaysia. Right? It’s like the opposite of like Southeast Asian cuisine as far as flavors and textures and brightness and all of that opposite.
Ange Branca: [00:10:37] It’s the opposite. And you know, back in those days, you couldn’t get any Southeast Asian flavors. We could get a lot of Chinese flavors because in the UK, there were a lot of, uh, people from Hong Kong. No being part of the British on a NATO, a lot of people from Hong Kong. So we’ve got a lot of Cantonese flavors and, uh, but there was nothing Malaysian, there was nothing spicy.
And I [00:11:00] still remember it as a student. We couldn’t eat out that much, so we would have to cook. And, and I, you know, even though I was trained to cook, I, I never really had to do it all by myself. It was always, you know, it was mom, the grandma in the kitchen. Um, and, and that was the first time I asked, I had to like, Oh God, I got it.
I got to make, like, if I want to eat nothing on the map, I gotta make this by myself. And I couldn’t find, you know, any ingredients anywhere. Um, so it was, it was very, it was a very interesting time. I called a lot. I learned how to cook independently a lot when I was in university.
Eli Kulp: [00:11:38] Nice. So I’m assuming from there you went on to work your way up the, um, the corporate ladder a little bit?
Ange Branca: [00:11:46] Yeah. I did
Eli Kulp: [00:11:49] Tell us a little bit about that as far as kind of what you did and what your focus was.
Ange Branca: [00:11:53] Yeah, so, uh, right out of college or out of university, I, I worked for Deloitte [00:12:00] and, and that’s where I was forever a long time. Um, I, I was actually, um, uh, working in Malaysia after university and, and I’ve quickly, you know, went up the corporate corporate ladder there at that point, um, to be senior manager pretty fast.
And then an opportunity came up where I was, uh, asked to take on, you know, pick one of the projects to take on. Uh, one was to come to the U S to write global methodologies, um, in the, um, in a methodology center, just outside of Philadelphia, Chester. And the other one it’s to go to South Africa for a project.
And I really wanted to go to South Africa, but at any, I chose to go here because, uh, you know, because, um, at first for some reason, everyone thought that was better for me to, to, to end up in the US so I did. Yeah. Um, so, so I was, uh, yeah, I [00:13:00] was, I came here in 2000. I, uh, that was the first time that. And
Eli Kulp: [00:13:06] SO for the, for the, um, and then what year did you sort of, uh, cut ties with your, your corporate life and decided to be an entrepreneur and go into restaurants?
Ange Branca: [00:13:17] It was 2000 and, um, 15. Um, I, you know, from, since, since, uh, Deloitte I’ve, you know, moved from Deloitte to work for Fujitsu for a very long time. And then in the last a couple of years, um, I ended up working for IBM and, you know, I, uh, got all the way up to partnership level in, in, in that arena, um, of my career and it was only to find out that it wasn’t a space that I fit in. I did not feel like I could succeed. Um, even though [00:14:00] I’ve worked my entire career, uh, in, in global consulting. And I, you know, I was one of the first few people who really understood, um, and wrote, you know, uh, um, the methodologies that still are being used today on global trading and finance and, you know, and, and how, uh, Companies like, um, like global companies, manufacturing companies would do transactions all around a wall and how to, um, centralize it in a single system.
And I’ve got, you know, I’ve done so many years of that. Um, only to come to the point that at the top of the career letter, it’s not so much about my experience and what I know and what I’ve gone through. It’s about who I know and, and it wasn’t a space that I could succeed being a foreigner, being an immigrant and you know, a person of color and also, um, and you know, [00:15:00] it’s, uh, it’s, it’s a very, very difficult space.
Eli Kulp: [00:15:05] You know, they, they say it’s, it can be very lonely at the top, you know, and that goes for any, any career and you know, where. You know, at that point, you’re, you’re sort of on your own. And, um, you know, of course, you know, you still have alliances and, and people that you, um, still, you know, talk with and work with, but I can imagine, um, also, did you think gender plays a role in that as well?
Like, did you feel that you weren’t sort of getting the same respect or the, you know, Uh, same pay, like did any of that kind of come into that equation?
Ange Branca: [00:15:46] Um, I never, you know, I never took that as, as an excuse for anything, uh, honestly, um, but that has always been part of the conversation, especially when I was at IBM and, and, you know, a [00:16:00] lot of people were uh, wondering how I became a partner at IBM because it is very male dominated. Right. And, and then, um, you know, frankly, there were my coworkers and colleagues who basically told me that, you know, the only reason I’m here is because IBM, uh, had to checkmark two things. Uh, one was, you know, to include more women and the other one was include more diversity and I fulfill both the check marks.
So, you know, so did that create an opportunity for me to be a Partner and if the, otherwise I wouldn’t be, or is it really, you know, my resume, my accolade, my, you know, my, uh, you know, all my experiences that put me in that position? And, you know, th that becomes, that always becomes like a question that people always challenge and, and it, it, you know, Yes, it’s an opportunity, but yes, it’s also uncomfortable that these [00:17:00] questions are being asked. Like, can it just be, you know, just accept, accept my experience for what it is not because I’m a woman and not because this is the right time. You know?
Eli Kulp: [00:17:09] And clearly you’re, you’re very smart and, uh, and working and, you know, without, without those two things, you would have got where you were, and also those two things are very important in any business, but especially in restaurants, I think, you know, being able to outwork the others, the competition, you know, the people around you as a young cook, you know, making sure that you’re putting in the time and the effort to, you know, show that you are, you know, the example of what the restaurant needs or the kitchen needs to, um, continue to develop talent.
And, you know, I, I don’t doubt your hard work at all because what you’ve done with opening Sate Kampar. [00:18:00] And turning it into a, um, you know, a restaurant that is getting talked about by the James Beard foundation and at the top of the list, you know, must play, must see places, uh, or must go to, uh, to eat places.
No, that is nothing short of amazing. Um, especially that you’ve had no professional restaurant experience. Yes. We’re going to go into sort of how you, how you developed your pallet and, and learn the techniques and the, and the recipes of your country and also your family. But, I mean, I do have to say like, I’ve always been extremely, uh, amazed and, um, of what you, what you, what you pulled off and, um, you know, each of you should be very, very proud of, of that for sure.
Ange Branca: [00:18:53] I appreciate that.
Eli Kulp: [00:18:55] Yeah, no, of course. So when you came over to [00:19:00] America, I’m curious, what was the like. You know, being an immigrant, you know, in another country and course, you know, looking at you, um, people don’t know that, you know, you came over, you know, working at a high level corporation, um, you know, doing high level, you know, highly skilled work.
What was, what was your impression of America after kind of settling in here and then, you know, did you ever kind of feel like an outsider or, or were you ever treated you know, in a, in a way that made you feel, uh, you know, less important?
Ange Branca: [00:19:39] Um, I, I didn’t really feel uh, lots of that. I mean, there were challenges in different ways, but I, um, you know, so I was, I was very excited when I first came to America, but I also was very disillusioned as to what America [00:20:00] is.
Eli Kulp: [00:20:00] I think a lot of people are when they come over.
Ange Branca: [00:20:04] Yeah. Well, you know, we get, you know, we, we get a lot of, um, uh, television shows, uh, made in America and that, that, that sort of forms an image. Right. So, you know, after, during those times in 2000, like, you know, when I was a kid, like you’d watch Baywatch all the time.
You think the whole, the whole country is like Baywatch, you know? So, um, I, I, uh, yeah, I did in Philly, it was like, where are the Palm trees? I did drive out of the Philadelphia airport. And I don’t know if you remember those days when you drive out of the Philly airport for the first time. And there was this like, Big pile of, um, uh, like scrap metal dump, uh,
Eli Kulp: [00:20:48] Not beautiful at all.
Ange Branca: [00:20:50] No, not beautiful at all. And then, you know, there’s always that, you know, the whole, um, the O uh, the oil industry area that you see that first, right. [00:21:00] And as a foreigner, you know, we don’t get a lot of context of what, um, you know, the steel industry era was. I think we didn’t have that context. So, you know, you see all that and you go, what happened to like the beautiful San Francisco scene and the beach? Where is it?
We kind of have to learn to learn, learn to sort of, um, uh, realize slowly that. That it’s a big country and everything that you see and you’re watching television. It’s not exactly what it is when you come here. Um, but it was a lot of fun for me. It was, it was a lot of fun. People were very nice.
Uh, my coworkers were, uh, were very nice and they, you know, they introduced me to a lot of things, but there were a cultural difference that I, I found a little challenging in the beginning. Like for example, in Malaysia, where we work. Um, there [00:22:00] was, you know, this whole concept where you work with a coworker so much that they eventually become your friends and then they become your family.
And then, you know, it’s a lot of, um, you know, you’ll, you know, your coworkers really becomes your extended family. In the professional life, there is this line you need to draw between your professional friends and your personal friends. And, and I didn’t really understand that at first. So, you know, I used to, uh, um, you know, I used to want to like, you know, find friends and, and it, it did not work very well in a professional area.
Um, and, and I was, it was a very lonely time. It was a very, very lonely time for a long time. I couldn’t figure out where and how to make friends. Um, and, and so, so, you know, um, over time, um, it just became like, I was just sucked into just like work and work and work. And [00:23:00] eventually that just becomes like, this is really, you know, monitor the goal, like just mind numbing, like just focus on this, like professional, you know, work itself.
And, and that’s, that’s one of the things that I found the restaurant industry to be so different. It brought me back to where, you know, your friends, your, your coworkers and your friends can really become your extended family cause we, the restaurant industry has that.
Eli Kulp: [00:23:26] Yeah, it really does. I mean, without a doubt and you know, the, not only that, but typically, you know, the industry itself is. Very supportive of, you know, uh, individuals coming in and doing their best. And I’ve talked about this multiple occasions and just, I mean, two podcasts ago, we talked with Greg Vernick about, you know, how he and I, no, both coming to Philadelphia after working outside of Philadelphia, um, just [00:24:00] felt so welcomed and embraced and all of that. How, how was that for you when you used to begin to, um, sort of organize and get ready for Sate Kampar opening?
Ange Branca: [00:24:10] It was, it was exactly that it was, um, yeah. You know, I didn’t, I didn’t know any chefs before I was at the Kompar. Cause you know, it did not come up the same way that, that you are Nate or Greg came out where you were in kitchens together and you have common friends and you’re noticing those.
So, so, um, when I opened Sate Kampar, uh, the neighbors um, on Passyunck Avenue we’re kind of curious, but they all came out and, and talk to me and, and we became friends. So some like some of the new, the first few restaurants or people that I know I’m still so grateful for them for, for being my first friends.
You know, among them is Nick Elmi. Uh, and, and also, um, Kathy and, um, and a [00:25:00] friend from Level two and his brother, uh, and also Ben and Christina and Sam from Stargazy. Like these were my very, very first industry friends.
Eli Kulp: [00:25:10] Wow. That’s great.
Ange Branca: [00:25:12] Yeah, they were the first people I knew and they was this, this was just our neighbors on passyunck. And they was so supportive because I, there were days where I don’t know who to turn to and. And I didn’t know who to ask questions. Like where do I buy receipt paper? And I would call Fred and I was like, Fred, Oh we are out of receipt paper but I have no idea where to buy this receipt paper thing. And so he just runs over and they gave me, gave me a stack of receipt paper and he says, go like take this for now.
And then he, you know, then, you know, he’s totally guided me on where to source ingredients from, and, and, and Nate was, you know, so helpful in just trying to help me get the word out there about my [00:26:00] cuisine. And I am just so appreciative of that, you know, because coming from a top chef, like Nick, where he’s, he he’s so looked up to in the culinary world, right.
And, and he’s trained in oh, um, his french training, um, you know, chef to give the kind of recognition to someone like me who’s like, I didn’t go to restaurant school and I’m just cooking stuff that I grew up from my grandma’s kitchen. And the minute he said, he, you know, posted an Instagram post about his favorite dish at Sate Kompar, immediately I see customers like his customers coming into my restaurant and trying it and trying to figure out, you know, what is, is this that Nick’s talking about? And, and, and that’s, you know, that really helped get the word out.
Eli Kulp: [00:26:55] Yeah, it’s amazing. I think Nick is a great guy. You know, he [00:27:00] was, he was the first guy I asked to be on this podcast and I’m sure I’ll have him on again. He’s doing some, uh, opening some new restaurants actually outside of Philadelphia and Bali Kenwood know he’s doing great things with the Curiosity Donuts. People are freaking out about the donuts that he’s, he’s doing with Alex Talbot and, you know, but Nick has always been somebody who, um, uh, it was, was, was interested and curious from the beginning of you know, when I came in also.
I actually funny story about Nick and I, um, when I came down to Philadelphia to do my first tasting for Ellen, uh, we did it over at Cook. Um, we kind of asked them to, you know, give us the afternoon to meet with me, to present some food.
And Nick was the executive chef at Rittenhouse Tavern, uh, right there on 18th street, next to Park and [00:28:00] I didn’t know Nick at all, or I didn’t really even know of him at that point. Um, and I had a friend that was working as a sous chef, so I reached out to my friend, Kenny. And asked him if I could, you know, maybe you could ask if I could use the space for a little bit.
So I ended up going in there and relatively early on in the morning, getting my sub prep for the, for the tasting. And, uh, the Nick comes in and flip-flops, and you know, he, uh, he’s like, Hey, who are you? I’m like, Hey man, I’m Eli, you know, thanks for letting me borrow your kitchen. He goes, Oh yeah, that’s right. I forgot about that. You know, something like that.
But he was really sort of like, you know, kind of just, all right, see you later, you know, the. Uh, and that was it. But later on, you know, uh, after actually getting the, getting the job down here and, and taken over for, you know, we became good pals. So yeah, Nick is, Nick is always open and willing to share his knowledge.
And he’s a great guy, [00:29:00] for sure. So you decided to leave corporate America, which I imagine was good pay, good benefits, all the things I’m sure, a good suburban life, or you could have whatever you want and you decided to go into restaurants. When did that conversation? What’s that?
Ange Branca: [00:29:25] To become a starving artist?
Eli Kulp: [00:29:27] To become a starving artist, exactly. No, seriously, like, you know, I don’t want to forget about, you know, your husband, John, who’s sort of been with you this whole, um, this whole journey and the restaurants and also him not having really a restaurant background, but take me back to those early conversations between him and you were you know, you were really like, started to say, I want to do this. And he was like, what, what was that conversation like?
Ange Branca: [00:29:53] Uh, John was really supportive from the beginning. I, you know, he he’s always thought that it would [00:30:00] be a really fun thing to do to open a restaurant. I’m the one who at the beginning was holding back because, uh, you know, when I think of how, how financially, we could make things work, running a business. I’m always the one who’s like, you know, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not going to give up this good paying job. Um, and, and, and do this until you know, until we are comfortable, we have enough, you know, to live on and this will be a project kind of thing.
So it took me a very long time. And John and I have been talking about potentially wanting to do something in the food industry for 10 years, even before we open. Um, but it’s always been like, yeah, let’s just talk about it because it’s fun to talk about it, you know, but never really wanted to do it for real.
Eli Kulp: [00:30:51] I’m sure you, I’m assuming you were cooking food and he was going to Malaysia and tasting what, he must’ve been like, wow, these flavors are, [00:31:00] you don’t have these flavors in Philadelphia.
Ange Branca: [00:31:02] Exactly, yeah. He keeps talking and eating the flavors and so amazing. And you know, there’s this whole concept for copy them in Malaysia, where you just get this first array of food from all different, uh, you know, uh, chefs and cooks in one place. And he always loved that entire experience and you just can’t get it in Philly.
So we, you know, uh, you know, so we always thought about it would be great to just bring this to Philly. Um, yeah, so we had, we had years and years and years of conversation and it wasn’t till I got to the top of my corporate letter and realized, you know, I, I, while, while I felt successful reaching there. I didn’t feel successful. Like it was empty. It wasn’t-
Eli Kulp: [00:31:50] It was lacking meaning, right? You weren’t doing something meaningful. And thing that, that is a common thread through [00:32:00] our industry and a lot why a lot of people get into it is because they feel like there’s meaning to it. And anytime you can attach something meaningful to what you’re doing, and if you’re killing a reason to pursue, uh, and you know, that becoming a passion after that, and then, you know, sort of becoming your life work. That’s why people get into this industry are attracted to it.
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Oh, everyone was pivoting and doing parallettes and everything else that they had to do to survive. And, you know, you were, you were involved in some great organizations and, and really, um, you know, with 215 People’s Kitchen, uh, what they’re doing there and, you know, continuing to support, uh, people who are, um, you know, the widespread, uh, are still affected by the widespread impact of COVID, but you’ve also done something uh, what I, uh, I think is [00:35:00] really amazing, um, that you’ve, you’ve created. Um, this new, new vision of what Kompar could be. Um, what, what is that tell us about. The, uh, Kompar Kitchen and what you’re, what you’re doing.
Ange Branca: [00:35:14] Yeah, absolutely. I’m so excited about this project. So Kompar Kitchen. Uh, some of you may think that Kamper Kitchen just popped out of nowhere, but it was actually something that I’ve been working on for a very long time. Uh, towards, you know, to have something, uh, else, uh, in the future as well, but, um, it was, it’s, so Kompar Kitchen came out of basically everything that I have experienced in 2020, right.
Uh, where all of a sudden, all of us in a food industry was kind of beaten down all the way to the ground. The, we don’t have much to come back anymore. And I’ve been over the summertime looking for new spaces, you know, [00:36:00] most of us think, well, you know, there must be a lot of empty places that we can now pop up or, you know, turn into a restaurant and brings that to come pop back. But the reality is the opportunities are not there for us.
While, while there are empty spaces, the opportunities are not there for us to really capture because we don’t have capital anymore. We don’t have the same money, like I didn’t have the same 300,000 that I had five years ago when I opened Sate Kompar to build a restaurant back up again, you know. I don’t have, um, I don’t have the kind of, uh, you know, without the kind of resources, um, access to loans are also very challenging because in this time, how do you figure out financially?
Um, The success of a restaurant business to pay that loan back in, in, even in, in a good day, even before [00:37:00] COVID the restaurant industry only has a 50/50 chance of survival. That’s a toss of a coin on whether they would do well or not. Right. Um, but in COVID, it’s less than 50/50. So like, you know, to take out a loan, to borrow capital for like give you if you’re a gambler or if you are like, you know, in finance, you will think that that would be the craziest thing to do to go borrow money for a sure loss. Right?
So, so it became such a struggle to, to really figure out how to come back. I mean, Nick and I don’t even, I’m thinking just for myself, I can’t imagine for everyone else out there. Um, so, so I was, you know, for a long time, uh, a little bit. Um, you know, challenge with like what options do we have.
And fortunately, um, over some of the time I was [00:38:00] able to build a pretty nice relationship with the people at the Bok building and, and, you know, while talking about this issues with, um, uh, an old neighbor of mine who works, uh, with the, uh, management at the Bok, um, they kind of show me this empty kitchen space is an event space at the Bok.
Um, and they can’t use it right now because they can’t hold events anymore. It’s not the Bok bar. It’s not a restaurant. It’s, it’s a different, you know, event space. And they asked if I could use it to just kind of, you know, uh, kickstart something. And I said, I definitely could. Um, and, um, you know, right away, my thought was, um, was about not bringing Sate Kompar back, but with everything that I’ve experienced to be able to work with people like myself, and come back together.
Uh, cause [00:39:00] we’ve learned so much right in 2020, you know. We have learned, you know, we we’ve learned that, you know, after going through, um, all these challenges, uh, we’ve learned that diversity, uh, is, is also one of the ways that, that, um, but then it was like greatly impacted, right. People of color, uh, Black people were very greatly impacted more so than, you know, um, uh, most people also, um, you know, thinking of, you know, how do you bring like all of us.
Uh, I tried to envision what our future is, right? And, and when I envision what my future is, I kind of think of how, um, 2020 has taught us that the challenges in 2020 has taught us to include that in part of our life. Coming back in the house, you know how to envision our future. So, you know, how do we bring a small business back and how do we bring, um, the restaurant industry back. All those [00:40:00] learnings that I had in 2020 and all those experiences that I had sort of came together and how we develop the ideology of what Kompar Kitchen is going to be.
Eli Kulp: [00:40:12] Right. Yeah. So unique structure. Tell us, tell us more about how that is built up.
Ange Branca: [00:40:18] It is. Yeah, it is a very unique structure. Um, so, uh, I bring together, um, chefs of all different backgrounds. We each have a night where we would sell our cuisine. Right. Uh, we sell it on a single sales platform. And, um, so, you know, they don’t need to commit to rent and things like that. Uh, that’s something that Kompar Kitchen will take on.
Um, but then we’ll take a commission of sales and it’s a very modest, you know, 25% commission of sales at this point, which is very reasonable. Right. And the reason we wanted to do something like that is because, you know, it is so when I was [00:41:00] asking myself, what, what equality means going forward, um, one of the things that I, I thought they were good to redefine what equality means for everyone, right?
Equality, I think we have learned to realize it’s not like everyone pays the same price anymore. It could also mean like if you do better you pay more, if you don’t do better, then you know, you get supported a bit more, right. That could also be a new way of redefining equality. So now when we work on, you know, everyone’s selling off food in a single platform, uh, and, and just taking a percentage of that is redefining the support that every chef needs in a very different way. So they’re not paying one fixed price rent, but we are paying based on how successful we are. Gotcha.
Yeah. So, so, so we, uh, uh, you know, we, we try to take these lessons and test new [00:42:00] grounds, you know, really we, um, and the reason that we did a soft launch in December is cause I know, you know, some of these strategies that I’m thinking of and some of these ideas that I’m thinking of has never been done before.
I really don’t know how successful we are going to get but, you know, this is the time there’s no better time in our entire lives has a new grounds to test new strategy, to, you know, to really just push forward with something totally different and not be defined by the systems that were in the past. Right. You know, there’s, there’s no, I mean, like take this, this is my time where I can take my experience as a business strategy, right?As the business strategies in the past and I just really push forward. I think it’s how do we, how, how, how do we create new strategies now with going forward?
Eli Kulp: [00:42:53] Right. No, I think even, you know, you made me think about the [00:43:00] podcast, that we pivoted relatively quickly back in I think it was April. We, we did a series of podcasts about how we use this time for opportunity, even though, even though every restaurant who are out there is struggling, nobody did better. Maybe some fast food, or I know pizza did pretty well if you’re doing pizza. But, um, even that, you know, it took its, you know, it took its lumps.
You know, if we can use this, if you can think on, use your left and your right brain during this process and think creatively about what you’re able to do or use this to benefit this time, to benefit you, to kind of take a step back, maybe close it down, maybe, you know, figure out what the next steps are, wait till spring time, you know, and figure out what that looks like.
And then using, you know, the rest of your brain to. Continue doing [00:44:00] the, the necessary business moves, um, to kind of keep yourself floating, you know, that’s where, you know, you really, you know, I think everybody has to use that challenge themselves to do that. And you know, one of the takeaways that I would love for people to, you know, your story and what you’re doing at camp, our kitchen is that, you know, creativity thrives in chaos.
And when humans are put into a position that, you know, it’s a fight or flight, almost almost position where, you know, you’re looking at your future, you know, really great leaders will take that as an opportunity to say, what can we do different? What needs to change? You know, you don’t, you don’t, you don’t subscribe to all the, all the dogma that, that has been passed down to generations of chefs and restaurant tours, because, you know, you did not grow up [00:45:00] sort of in it. So, you know, you don’t have that sort of baggage.
And I think, you know, chefs that are my age that are sort of, you know, entering their, their next, um, phases of what they’re the restaurant group or, you know, restaurants, um, look like, you know, we still have that ingrained DNA that you know, the, that sort of built in, in our brain of what a restaurant today looks like, what it should be, you know. That, you know, we remember working 80 hours a week and only making $300 and, you know, being in abusive kitchens and, you know, like part of us, you know, we use that, you know, we kind of like wear that as like a badge of honor that we survived, but we also need to make sure that we.
We can’t sound like that anymore. We have to let go of that mentality and start to figure out what is the next, uh, what’s the newest, what’s going to be the next evolution, uh, in what [00:46:00] restaurants are going to be coming out in COVID in 2021. And, you know, for the future of restaurants, because I guarantee.
You’re not thinking about it as an owner, somebody else says Silicon Valley is finding, finding ways to problem solve all the time so they can make millions of dollars, you know, being a problem solver in these, in this time right now. And, you know, like I said, creativity, thriving in the, in the chaos, um, you know, is, is really important.
And I can’t wait to see what comes out of this. Um, and I think you’re. You’re what you’re doing is, you know, you’re, it’s a highly Intrepid, um, and risky and, you know, scary, but also exciting. And, and, um, fundamentally, um, could change the, uh, the game when it comes to how restaurants are, are ran and operated and looked at.
So, you know, that’s [00:47:00] great. I’m glad you found good partners in the backfield that they do. You know, in general, there is so much creativity that happens in that former high school in South Philly. That’s been transformed. So, um, kudos to you, you know, Andrea, I’m really, really proud to see what you’re doing and make sure everybody listening.
How are they gonna find you? How do they, um, find what you’re doing? Uh,Kompar Kitchen, Instagram, how’s that work?
Ange Branca: [00:47:27] So, uh, definitely follow Kompar Kitchen Instagram. That’s the best place right now. And, uh, we are, you know, cause we, when we kick started this, it happened so far, so we’re still trying to build our website and build, you know, a lot of different things.
Uh, but, um, You know, it’s, it’s the very, very beginning of this whole, you know, uh, exciting era of, uh, of our new, um, vision. So yeah, follow us on Instagram, like come with us in this journey and, and then kind of see how, you know, [00:48:00] see, see how it grows and becomes going forward.
Eli Kulp: [00:48:04] Ange, this was a really great chat. Um, I figured we would have lots to talk about one thing that we do at the end of every podcast and you’re you’re avid listener. So you find a 11 question session that we pop up people.
Ange Branca: [00:48:23] Okay. Oh my God. Oh my God.
Eli Kulp: [00:48:26] I’ll go. I’ll go. Easy on you here. We’re gonna do these 11 questions uh, to get to know you a little bit more on a personal level and some of your opinions on things.
So, uh, are you ready? Outside of Southeast Asian cuisine what would you say is your favorite?
Ange Branca: [00:48:46] What’s my favorite? I, you know, I love. Gosh. It’s so that’s such a difficult question for someone who loves to eat. Yeah. I love to eat so, oh my God. Um, [00:49:00] I actually, I love Mexican.
Eli Kulp: [00:49:02] Mexican. Yeah. Yeah. For on this side of the globe is probably the closest thing that, you know, you get to the flavors and the intensity of,
Ange Branca: [00:49:13] Uh, yeah. Yeah, it that’s true. But also in the last four years, I’ve learned about Mexican food more than I’ve ever in my entire life because of the people who work with me in my kitchen. We would cook and it’s not the kind of Mexican food that you find in a restaurant, like really, really humble, like home cooking Mexican food. My God, those are the best.
Eli Kulp: [00:49:35] That’s awesome. If you and I were going to Malaysia, where would you take me first?
Ange Branca: [00:49:40] I would take you to eat durians.
Eli Kulp: [00:49:43] Oh man really? Baptisim by fire.
Ange Branca: [00:49:47] Yes, absolutely. We have restaurants that serves durians. It’s going to be like the whole army classing of durians you know, you sit in there. Oh yeah. So in Malaysia, we great [00:50:00] durians. You have this menu where you, you have, you know, durians by the flavor, the texture, the sweetness, you know, how you know, how you can try different types of wines and, and, and, you know, um, things like that.
They,we, we have every grade of durians categorized by that. So you go down this whole tasting experience of all these different flavors.
Eli Kulp: [00:50:19] Incredible, I had no idea
if anybody out there is wondering what durian is, look it up, it’s, it’s actually, um, a love it or hate it for a lot of people. And it is, uh, it’s not allowed in hotels and it’s not allowed in often on air airplanes or airports because the smell. People say it smells like rotting flesh. So I think it’s a, one of those things you have to, uh, You have to figure out if you like it or not, but I’m down with trying different, like a tasty menu about it. That’d be, that’d be incredible.
Ange Branca: [00:50:59] Well, at [00:51:00] least you had, you had the fermented durian and you not dislike it?
Eli Kulp: [00:51:06] No, it was actually, it was really actually really a delicious, um, kinda like a puree of it. Okay. A common misconception of Malaysian food?
Ange Branca: [00:51:16] Um, here in the U S most people come in and think that they would eat everything with chopsticks.
Eli Kulp: [00:51:23] Oh, okay.
Ange Branca: [00:51:24] Oh Yeah. Oh, that used to drive me nuts. Uh, no. So Malaysia is not Chinese food. Yeah. So it’s, so we are very multicultural country. We do have Malaysian Chinese cuisine, but we have also the local indigenous cuisine as well. We have Indian cuisine and predominantly, other than eating noodles uh, or Chinese noodles, the rest of the country with all the other cuisines, we eat with our hands.
And if we don’t want to use our heads, we eat with a spoon, so, you know, when I serve my food at Sate Kampar if I’m not serving noodles, I’m not giving you [00:52:00] a pair of chopsticks. You eat it with hands or spoon and you are, and it’s ethically correct to come to my restaurant and eat with hands. It is we have, um, hand washing pots.
They look like tea pots. And some of you might have remember that if you come into the restaurant, you see these silver looking teapots around, uh, at a restaurant. They’re hand washing pots. So, you know, Malaysians would come in, eat with their hands and they would wash their hands before they eat and after they eat with those pots.
Eli Kulp: [00:52:27] That’s awesome. Favorite kitchen tool.
Ange Branca: [00:52:29] Oh my speddle.
Eli Kulp: [00:52:32] Your what?
Ange Branca: [00:52:34] Recall is better, this is so internal kitchen joke. We have this wooden paddle, uh, that originally was a spoon that we use to stir the pot as we make som bo and over four years, the spoon has like, you know, been shaved down so much that it was flat and looks more like a paddle now, but it was a spoon originally.
So we called it a speddle. [00:53:00] Our cooks, our chefs, we hang onto the spoon like dear life, because it’s the best som bo stirring utensil.
Eli Kulp: [00:53:10] Everybody’s had a little bit of that wood in their food.
Ange Branca: [00:53:12] Exactly. Yeah. That wood is so seasoned, but making som bo is one of those things that you just have to stir constantly so it just grinds
Eli Kulp: [00:53:24] That’s cool. Favorite book? You have a book or a cookbook or anything that you, that you would, that you love or go to?
Ange Branca: [00:53:33] Uh, I, yeah, I do. Um, so I, so before I opened the restaurant, I read a lot of Anthony Bourdain’s books and, and I still do go back sometimes because I think he was probably one of the ones first authors that caught my attention of what kitchen life is. Like, like real, like the reality of kitchen life. Um, so, so [00:54:00] I, I go back to that often. I do, I do.
Eli Kulp: [00:54:02] So were you plannin gon like um, knife fights and doing drugs in your kitchen like Anthony Bourdain?
Ange Branca: [00:54:08] No, no, I, you know, I have no experience in that part of it and when I read it, I could not imagine it until I actually own a restaurant and I have to encounter so much of that with my, you know, some of the staff and the team and the people who come in um, and yeah, I mean, the book actually prepared me for that.
Eli Kulp: [00:54:31] No, that was a big reason why I moved to New York, actually reading that book. My brother gave it to me and I read it. I’m reading it in Seattle and you know, saying like this East coast kitchen, um, kind of sounds like what I want, it sounds like where the you know, it’s like the pressure makes the diamond so to speak and that’s what I wanted. So that’s what brought me out East. Cool. Um, [00:55:00] what’s your biggest fear?
Ange Branca: [00:55:02] My biggest fear. Hmm. I’m not like an entirely fearless still, but I don’t know. I mean, my biggest fear would be, uh, you know, I think in the past year, my biggest fear would be that if I don’t have something to occupy my mind um, that that would be my biggest fear. Like I always want to be busy. I always want to have something to do uh, cause I think that if I don’t, I I’ll just sink into, I don’t know, this disappear somewhere, sink into like an empty hole.
Eli Kulp: [00:55:42] Always, always trying to find some way to keep it going.
Ange Branca: [00:55:46] Yeah. Yeah.
Eli Kulp: [00:55:47] What’s your biggest hope?
Ange Branca: [00:55:49] My biggest hope is for, um, you know, everyone to just like come together and work and just be [00:56:00] okay with each other. Yeah.
Eli Kulp: [00:56:03] Well, I’m looking, uh, I just got a text message from somebody that was happening on Capitol Hill today. And you know, the Trump supporters are were storming the Capitol building and, you know, it’s just like, it’s just the hate and the, and the lies and everything is just.
Ange Branca: [00:56:20] Yeah. Yeah. I, it kinda, I need to get past that. I, my hope is that we’ll all just, you know, stop that, stop doing this whole fighting back and forth and just, just come together. And I think that’s why I love food so much because it, you know, that can, that it’s always the catalyst for bringing people together.
Eli Kulp: [00:56:39] Yep. Um, all right. Favorite animal to cook and eat.
Ange Branca: [00:56:45] Goat.
Eli Kulp: [00:56:46] I thought you were going to say that
Ange Branca: [00:56:48] You knew that?
Eli Kulp: [00:56:49] Well, I figured goat is something that is part, uh, of your kitchen and something that, you know, Americans, uh, you know, it is the most eaten animal in the world.
[00:57:00] Ange Branca: [00:56:59] Yes it is.
Eli Kulp: [00:57:00] It is often looked down at, in Americans thought of, you know, more ethnic and, you know, Um, you know, people eat lamb gladly, but goat is for whatever reason, uh, not as popular, but if, uh, people ever eat goat, they’ll be sold on it.
Ange Branca: [00:57:18] Yeah. Oh, my, my 21st year old
Eli Kulp: [00:57:21] It’s like gamey like everything and the straw.
Ange Branca: [00:57:25] Yeah. I always loved goat. My 21st year old birthday. So 21, you know, in Malaysia was like considered, like, I am adult now kind of thing. My 21st year birthday, um, my mom bought this whole goat. And we were at, uh, in front of my, um, uh, my house in the little garden in front of a house. And we were roasting it over the, over the Chaco pit. This is like turning it in, turning it, roasting it the whole day. We had a whole goat for my birthday party on my twenty first, it was so good.
Eli Kulp: [00:57:58] From an outside [00:58:00] perspective, what would be a common misconception that people have of Philadelphia?
Ange Branca: [00:58:04] Oh yeah. That, that, uh, that is dangerous. That it is there’s nothing going on. That it’s boring. I hear that all the time when I was in my corporate world. People would ask me, what do you want to live in Philly? Why don’t you move out to New York or, you know, LA or San Francisco? Um, yeah, everyone thinks that it’s like the most dangerous place to live in Newell.
Eli Kulp: [00:58:29] One thing you want to see more of in Philadelphia?
Ange Branca: [00:58:33] I, okay. So I feel like. Like, you know, early on in, our a conversation, I feel like for these, one of the most diverse cities, um, that I’ve lived in and it’s really beautiful, but I do want to see more places and spaces and events where this diversity comes together.
You know, I think that, you know, we do have very diverse events, but it is, it is segregated a little bit in the same [00:59:00] way at the same time. Right. Because there will be events for like different cultures, but it would be so cool to have events and spaces where these things come together. And I don’t know what that means, but that would be just really cool.
Eli Kulp: [00:59:15] I like it. I can see, I can smell the different flavors cooking. I can see the different music being played.
Ange Branca: [00:59:20] Yeah. That would be really cool wouldn’t it.
Eli Kulp: [00:59:22] All right. Last question. You’re off the hook. If you can sit down and eat your food with anyone past or present, who would it be?
Ange Branca: [00:59:34] Oh, I. I’ve always wanted Anthony Bourdain to come into Sate Kampar.
Eli Kulp: [00:59:43] Oh Yeah.
Ange Branca: [00:59:45] Yeah and you know I-
Eli Kulp: [00:59:47] He would love it. He would absolutely love it.
Ange Branca: [00:59:50] I keep bringing him up because look, you know, he’s such a good writer, but he, I credit him to be one of the, um, [01:00:00] the, you know, uh, popular figures who has, who has allowed the world to appreciate some of these things that are unappreciated all around the world in everyone’s cuisines.
You know, he was, I think the first person who brought appreciation to some of these cuisines of my childhood, and to see that on television and to see him talk about it with so much love and value and passion for it um, it, it, it created a whole new culture that without him and without his followers and without people who, uh, saw his, you know, TV shows and, and created that sense of adventure in cuisine and travel, without that such a compound would never exist.
Well, because, you know, because it took him all these years [01:01:00] to create a culture of people to want something like that and that, and those kinds of people are our customers.
Eli Kulp: [01:01:09] He turned the spotlight onto so many different, uh, little corners and of the globe of, you know, a food and, you know, selfishly, you know, um, I think everybody wants him back and he’s still missed for sure.
Ange Branca: [01:01:27] Yeah, he is. Yeah. I would love to, like, I would love to sit down and have a meal with him.
Eli Kulp: [01:01:34] I actually had an opportunity to sit down with him and eat with him in New York city at Theresa. He came in and, you know, after he ate, we are able to kind of sit down and have a beer and just chat a little bit. Me and uh, Mario and Rich, uh, who, um, are good friends of mine and chefs in New York, we sat down together. So, yeah, that was cool. That was cool.
Ange Branca: [01:01:56] Yeah.
Eli Kulp: [01:01:57] All right, Ange. It was great [01:02:00] speaking with you.
Ange Branca: [01:02:01] This was fun.
Eli Kulp: [01:02:02] Yeah.
Thanks for listening to The CHEF Radio podcast. If you’d like to support the show, please leave us a review. Wherever you listen to your podcast, it helps others find the show and allows us to continue to make great content. The CHEF Radio podcast is produced by RADIOKISMET. Post production and sound designed by Studio D Podcast Production and I am your host Eli Kulp.