Getting to know Asheville, NC’s Chef J Chong of J Chong Eats

Photo by Danielle Wheeler

This is a part of our new Q+A series.

It seems like Asheville’s nationally recognized food scene gets better every single day. One of coolest and most beloved figures to emerge in Asheville’s culinary scene as of late is Chef J Chong, who has become famous for her Cantonese eats (especially those dumplings) available via pop-ups, farmers markets + more. 

In honor of Pride month and the city’s culinary festival, Chow Chow which kicks off Sun, June 27 and features the chef — we’re asking J Chong 10 questions. Read on to find out which local dish she craves, the coolest person she’s ever met here, how Asheville inspires her cooking, and the role food plays in supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

What is your name, title, and 3-5 things you want people to know about you?

My name is J Chong, she/her, Chef at J Chong Eats.

  • I am from Toronto, ON. 
  • I left there at 19 to attend college on a soccer scholarship in Gulfport, MS.
  • I think that I am pretty funny and love to make people laugh.
  • I am obsessed with Adidas. 

Fill in the blank: The coolest person I’ve met in Asheville is: 

Anthony Bourdain when he dined at Cúrate, where I once worked.

What local dish do you crave + rave about? 

The crudo at Leo’s House of Thirst. It is absolutely delicious.

What 3 people (living or dead) would you invite to an imaginary dinner party? 

Marsha P. Johnson, Michelle Obama, and Erykah Badu

You can only choose one local restaurant menu to bring with you to a deserted island — which one is it + why? 

BimBeriBon’s menu.  It is always so fresh with ingredients and done well.  There are a lot of Asian influences which I love and my favorite flavors and I know that I will be eating healthy.

What about Asheville inspires your cooking?  

Asheville is extremely supportive of creativity and authenticity.  I am passionate about my ethnicity and the flavors of my childhood, so I am always inspired to bring Cantonese food for our community to taste and enjoy.  

What, if anything, do you hope to accomplish with your food beyond filling bellies? 

To bring people together over a meal. I believe that food is medicine and it brings us together.  Sharing a meal with someone can be so special, we can learn a lot about someone when we take the time to share a meal with them and share our stories.

How can food play a role in supporting and uplifting the local LGBTQ+ community? 

I am a very proud queer Asian woman and I feel that I can use my food and voice to help raise awareness for the queer community.  Hopefully, I can make people feel safe and secure enough to step out of their comfort zone and learn more about our community.  We have so much love and happiness to offer, if we are just able to be seen and heard, and I feel that food is the easiest way to accomplish this goal.  Food is extremely emotional and can create such great memories. 

How does this year’s Chow Chow speak to your experience of food in Asheville? 

I think Chow Chow has done a great job this year with the variety of events, chefs, and makers in town. It is bringing in a lot of newcomers who have worked hard on their craft and deserve to share who they are through their art. I am happy to see a little more diversity among the talent this year, as it was lacking in the previous year.

What Chow Chow event are you most excited to attend this year?  

The Appalachian Pride Brunch.