Paulo Wei is the co-founder and co-owner of Our Kitchen. Before embarking on his culinary journey, he studied at University of South California and later a music conservatory in upstate New York, where he received classical training as a Bel Canto Tenor. After that, he was accepted to the Manhattan School of Music and the Columbia University School of General Studies, where he currently goes as an undergraduate.
At Our Kitchen, Paulo Wei manages the new farm-to-table delivery service that uses ingredients taken from their farm in upstate New York. The restaurant promises to take customers who want to taste the finest Hong Kong cuisine but can’t spare the expense to fly to the other side of the world. Paulo says that Our Kitchen is “like an Asian Blue Hill Farm.”
Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and raised between Hong Kong and Beijing, Paulo Wei has the ability and taste to take Our Kitchen to the next level. He says, “We have our 14th Street restaurant and now we have a working farm Upstate, which is all about the process of planting the food, and delivering it to the table.”
At Our Kitchen, Paulo Wei is proud to say that their way is “how you make really authentic Chinese food.”
Do it yourself. I’ve learned that the hard way. Paulo Wei, Our Kitchen
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us!What is your back story?
Paulo Wei: The back story for Our Kitchen would be since the beginning of COVID, I proposed and partnered up with The Tang NYC and The Tang Hotpot NYC in doing the frozen dumpling kit. It was a very strong hit at the beginning. We sold 7000 dumplings for two orders. Down the line, I was talking with a friend of mine, Jon Shim, that we should establish our own brand during this time. Since my mother has a farm in upstate New York that is 43 acres in size, I have decided to make the best of it. Therefore, the Oriental-styled farm to table — Our Kitchen was created.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company? What lessons or takeaways would you take out of that story?
Paulo Wei: Do it yourself. I’ve learned that the hard way. Even though I am the co-founder for Our Kitchen, it does not mean I can get away of not knowing how to make the products myself. I learned this the hard way. There was this one time where I had to produce a large amount of dumplings for a client and the chef took an unexpected break. The chef did not have signal and the order was literally expected for the next day. If I hadn’t learned how to make the dumplings from scratch as a child, we would have been in deep trouble. I stepped in last minute and pulled an all-nighter in making dumplings. It is actually quite funny where normally my all-nighters would be in reviewing economic terms or computer science codes, I pulled an all-nighter for dumplings in the kitchen space. From this I’ve learned that I had to learn how to make all the products that is being produced under our brand. By doing so, I would ensure the quality and the consistency of our products.
Speak your mind and stick with it as long as it is reasonable.
Jerome Knyszewski: Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Paulo Wei: I am! Our Kitchen is remodeling our location in Upstate New York to make it more winter-friendly and is planning and working on building a boutique hotel on the property.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share 5 of the most difficult and most rewarding parts of being a twenty something founder. Please share an example or story for each.
1.) When your customers or your client is happy with your product or with the vision for your company. — There were many times where we get thank you notes from our clients. Receiving such feedback is so rewarding and up lifting. It most definitely encouraged us to do better!
2.) Speak your mind and stick with it as long as it is reasonable. — There was this one time where I did not want to do the local market because I wanted to focus on the market within the city. My business partner thought otherwise. I communicated my point and explained what I thought. We did not reach an agreement at the end. I did not give in neither did he. Therefore, as a result he focused on the local market whereas I focused on the market in the city. Much to our surprises, both of us did really well in terms of sales.
3.) When there is a problem cut it right there and then. — At first, I hired a chef based on a referral from a family friend. The chef was not open to changing her flavor of taste based on the feedback from our customers. I talked with her multiple times, but she insisted that her taste or flavoring was the authentic taste of a Chinese Dumpling. I told my human resource team that we had to change a chef right then and there. The team started the search, but it was taking a long time. Therefore, I personally reached out and tested sampling from the previous chef applicants. Once I found the right chef, I switched the production team right away. Not saying the previous chef was bad, rather it is just a difference in taste.
4.) While working on a business with a close friend, remember to not take things personally. — My business partner and I are best of friends. We are practically family now. However, there are many times where we would have differences in the vision of the company. Such cases would result in heated conversations. There were many times where the both of us regretted working together but at the end of the day when we saw our progress as a company, we would always mend things. Open communication is crucial. When there is a problem, make sure to clear the air and address it. It is important to know that do not take things personally. It is a business after all. There are times where we would talk about person things and there are times where business is just black and white.
5.) Communication is key. — For everything that happens both internally and externally, make sure you address it accordingly. Things happen both good and bad in the split of a second, it is important to always be prepared. If you have a good mentality (knowing your purpose and the direction of your company) then things would reflect accordingly in the material world. I always had a vision to expand the company into the Hamptons community, I envisioned it and with the help of my mentor and godfather, it happened. There were many problems along the way, but if there is a clear goal then everything will fall into place.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!