Chef Guy Wong is the creator of such well-known restaurants as Le Fat, Ton Ton ramen bar and the recently opened Miso Ko sushi bar at Ponce City Market. He’s also gained a following on Instagram (@guywongatl and @bodyofachef), where he’s been chronicling his fitness journey.
You often help others get started on their workout routines, but who helped you to get moving? Did you use a personal trainer, or do the research yourself, or just feel it out by trial and error?
My brother was instrumental in getting me to move. He started his fitness journey before I did and was my inspiration. He told me, “If I can do it, you can do it.” I didn’t believe him at first, but I do now. And that has become my advice to others that I help get started on their workout routine. I had worked out when I was younger so I had a feeling what I wanted to do. I also have a good friend who is really into fitness – Jessica-Kim Danh – and she helped me out at the beginning. I did not use a personal trainer at the start – but when I hit a plateau I did use a trainer to help me change up my routine.
Which do you think will ultimately be more difficult: reaching your goal weight or maintaining it?
Reaching my goal is definitely the hard part. I hope that by the time I get there, I will have all these great habits that will allow me to maintain my goal
A lot of chefs are runners, but you prefer going to the gym. What do you think about during your hour-long morning workout?
My morning workout is the time I use to plan my day. I schedule what I know needs to be done during the day, but there is always something unexpected that comes up so at least I know what needs to be done when I get to work.
Kitchens are an intense atmosphere. What do your kitchens sound like? Is it deadly silent, does somebody pick a radio station or playlist, or do you just fling witty banter?
Remember Simon & Garfunkel? “The Sounds of Silence.”
What’s the difference between how you cook at home versus at work? Do you use your own kitchen as a lab, or save experiments for the professional kitchens?
I don’t cook at home! I save all experiments for my restaurant kitchens.
You have a wide variety of experience with Asian cuisine, but is there any part of you that longs to open a pizza place or greasy breakfast diner or something? Is there any food you make for yourself that would surprise your customers?
I love cooking Italian food, but I would never open an Italian restaurant. I think my customers would be surprised that I make simple American noodles with butter and oyster sauce for my 7-year-old son, Aidan.
You’ve had restaurants in stand-alone building and newer ones that operate in food halls. What are the logistical differences between running a place like Le Fat in West Midtown versus a place like Miso Ko in Ponce City Market?
Much easier to run a restaurant in a stand-alone building! Not so much due to logistical differences but when you operate in a food hall you don’t have the same autonomy that you do in a stand-alone location. You have to adhere to their hours of operations, delivery procedures and other things mandated by Ponce City Market. When you have so many restaurants operating in the same place, it makes sense and makes the operation in total run more smoothly.
Do you have pretty good people-watching opportunities inside Ponce City Market?
Absolutely! In addition to being a favorite among Atlanta residents, Ponce City Market has become a favorite destination for people visiting Atlanta so there is a tremendous diversity in the people that come to Ponce City Market. It does make for some interesting people-watching.
I happened to grab some of your ramen at Ton Ton on Halloween and all the servers were in awesome costumes. What does a good service environment mean to you? Is it important for servers to feel like a family, to have some fun, to get education about new dishes, etc?
A good service environment means that the customers are happy. I want the servers and the rest of the staff to feel that they are part of the team, so I guess we are one big dysfunction family. I want them to have fun, but first and foremost I want them to be professional and represent Ton Ton well. I always make sure that the staff knows about any new dishes or specials that are on the menu.
Ramen broth can takes several days to make, while sashimi might take just one minute. Do you prefer long cooking times, or short?
Cooking time really depends on the ingredient. I could not make a good ramen broth in a minute. At a restaurant, short cooking times allow for more table turns and more guests, which ultimately allows us to make more money. However, the many hours it takes to make our flavorful ramen broth is well worth it.
What’s your favorite food to pickle?
Japanese cucumbers – I love the crunchiness and the contrast when you eat them with soft rice – it adds texture.
What do you like to eat for comfort food when you’re sick?
Century egg with congee.
Every magazine round-up of secret essentials for my kitchen seems to mention fish sauce. What are the best things to do with fish sauce at home?
Fish sauce makes a great dipping sauce – add some fresh lemon juice and crushed Thai peppers. Great with any kind of protein.