Ben Fong

Jo McGarry photo

Jo McGarry photo

Owner/chef, Sumo Ramen Restaurant, Kaneohe

Where were you born and raised? Canton, China.

Have you always worked in the restaurant industry? Yes, I started my first job as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant when I was 16 years old. As a new immigrant, I didn’t have too much choice in the beginning, but I liked it from the start.

Did you always want to have your own restaurant? Yes, I think it’s a dream of many people to own a restaurant. First maybe the dream is to be a chef, and then to own your restaurant.

What do you enjoy about it? I always have been comfortable with customers and with talking to them in the dining room. It’s good dealing with people and it makes me happy to see them coming back again and again because of our food.

Your food is very comforting. Noodles, fried rice, gyoza, katsu … Yes, we hear that a lot. And we offer lots of combinations of those dishes so people can have a taste of everything at once – ramen, fried rice … whatever they like really. We make the gyoza ourselves, and we have a lot of people who comment on the taste of our noodles and of our gyoza. Many, many people ask for a side dish of gyoza with their meals!

What’s the secret to making good gyoza? You put your heart into it. We make hundreds and hundreds of them fresh every day and we really put our hearts into making them.

You work so hard – I think a lot of people don’t understand how much work it is to run a neighborhood restaurant. (Laughs) Yes, it’s a lot of hard work, many long hours. But we love working with people.

Do you have time to eat out? We love to go out to try other people’s food – it’s good for us to see what other restaurants are doing. Yanagi Sushi is very good. Fook Yuen Restaurant at McCully is one of the best. My wife and I enjoy eating out.

Do you cook at home? Yes, I do. I love to cook at home. We eat different food from the restaurant. My parents like Chinese food, and I also like to make Japanese food.