Chinatown’s Fat Choy is Redefining What It Means to Run a Restaurant

Two chefs with lengthy portfolios in culinary meat turn themselves around to start a vegan, Chinese-influenced restaurant. In New York, what else is new?

It turns out, Fat Choy is a fast-moving pioneer when it comes to bringing Chinese comfort food together with sustainable restaurant operations. Founders Jared Moeller and Justin Lee were keen on taking a stand against food waste and meat farming, yet they wanted to do so in a way that didn’t play into predominant stigmas towards veganism and environmentalism. As Lee put it, “It’s hard to tell that story. If I’m going out to eat, I don’t need a lecture — I’m going there for enjoyment.” Rather than taking on a paternalistic environmental stance, Fat Choy emphasizes that the restaurant experience can be enjoyable and accessible while leaving a smaller footprint.

“We Built It From Scratch.”

Reinventing the wheel when it came to how to run a zero-waste restaurant wasn’t without its challenges. Everything at Fat Choy has been curated to use the last scraps of seeming food waste that most restauranteurs wouldn’t think of. “For us, we find a way. It takes work and a lot of diligence; it’s very easy to just throw that stuff away, but it’s much harder to process it properly, utilize it, and find a way to sell it,” Lee described. “After many, many talks over many long nights we were just like, ‘All right, let’s give it a go!’” Moeller added.

With Fat Choy’s first location up and running in the heart of Chinatown, it’s clear that New York foodies are delighting the change of pace. “When we first started it up, we wanted the brand to be unique and also have a message to show people what we stand for, and I think people were very receptive right out of the gate,” Moeller described. With menu staples including Sticky Rice Dumpling, Salt + Pepper Cauli, and Smashed Cucumber, Lee and Moeller are proving day by day that “we have these culinary talents, and we can apply them to make vegetables taste delicious,” as Moeller put it.

Growing the Movement

The two are now already looking forward to plans of expansion grounded in pushing the restaurant industry at large to follow in its pursuit. “The more successful we are, the less factory-farming of animals that exists,” Moeller emphasized. By creating a competitive, scalable product, the McDonald’s of today may start to feel a bit of the edge towards a new way of melding environmentalism with food hospitality. As Fat Choy proves, it’s only from the ground up that we’ll achieve such levels of systemic change, together.

To join the movement and grab a bite to eat in the meantime, drop by Fat Choy at 250 Broome Street, and check out their menu at fatchoynyc.com

Designer and writer integrating multimedia design with systemic change