Emily and Jen Chan just want you to have fun with your food.

Emily and Jen Chan Mic Chan
Jen and Emily Chan with son Mick

Photo courtesy of Emily and Jen Chan.

With a hungry newborn in one hand, a kitchen knife in the other, and just 30 minutes to cook a healthy dinner before her wife gets home from work, Emily Chan knew she had a problem. “I can’t cook,” she says, recalling that moment, “she just had too much to do. “I can’t make food kits because they have to cook food. I just need something that I can do with one hand.”

To make her life easier, she could invest in a freezer full of ready meals. Instead, Emily decided to make life easier for everyone in her place: she found a shared kitchen, sent out a few emails, and started cooking one meal a week to deliver to subscribers. Eventually, subscribers started asking for more, and JenChan’s Supper Club was born.

Four years later, the weekly dinner club has grown into something much bigger: Emily Chan and her wife Jen now run a traditional Cabbagetown restaurant also called JenChan’s, and earlier this year they expanded to East Atlanta Village with MikChan’s, a delivery company. and takeaway, based out of the Global Grub collective, a food hall owned by Queenh “Q” Treen.

Trinh announced this week that she is selling We Suki Suki, her banh mi business, to Emily and Jen and teaching them the fine art of making banh mi, from Trinh’s classic dak beat recipe to where she stocks her buns. “I have been hoping for years that someone will come along who will not only recognize the successful $99 banh mi business I built, but more importantly, someone who will appreciate my wonderful and dedicated followers.” Trin said. “What more could I ask for from a successor? I’m delighted that I don’t have to decommission the “little Saigon submarine that can” and she stays in the house where she was born with caregivers who will love her as much as I do for 10 years” .

Emily and Jen Chan Mic Chan
A family outside of Mikchan named after Emily and Jen’s son.

Photo courtesy of Emily and Jen Chan.

Meanwhile, Emily and Jen are excited to welcome banh mi to the menus of both restaurants, and they already have ideas for expansion: “Now you can order banhmi Q at MikChan’s in East Atlanta Village for lunch and dinner, and soon you’ll be able to enjoy them for lunch.” at JenChan’s in Cabbagetown, says Emily. “And who knows where else they might appear. . “.

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Before Jenchan’s Dinner Club became Jenchan’s Restaurant, it was Jenchan’s joke gift: One Christmas, Emily bought 2,000 “JenChan” pens for her wife, a gift made with the promise that she would one day open a restaurant named after him. honour. Jen. “I thought, ‘I’ll open a restaurant, name it after you, and it’ll be called JenChan’s, and then if it sucks, I won’t be blamed,’ Jen thought. it was a joke.

Competing with the demands of a growing business, Emily realized she needed more space. She also wanted to be closer to her home in Cabbagetown so she could see her son more often. When space became available on Carroll Street for a small restaurant in September 2019, she jumped at the opportunity to have a nightclub headquarters as well as a regular restaurant – named Jen, of course. Just in case it sucks.

“It was hardcore shit,” Emily says, recalling the early days of opening a restaurant, running a food delivery service, and caring for a baby. “But now I am betrayed. There is no way back, even if it’s a terrible idea. I’ll just do it until someone else tells me it’s a failure.”

By December 2019, things were starting to look up: after having trouble finding help in the kitchen, JenChan had a reliable staff. The environment was supportive. The food – Asian with southern flair – was fun and innovative. Jen Chan began to pay attention.

And now it’s March 2020.

“We closed our doors, coming out of the best three months we’ve ever had,” says Emily. “There was momentum, so we had to turn around very quickly. I told my employees to bring me their bikes and I will pay for their tires to be repaired. And we started delivering pizza on bicycles around the neighborhood.”

Those who know JenChan’s today may not know that the restaurant’s original menu did not include dishes such as fusion pizza with Mongolian beef or Vietnamese pork. Pizza was born out of necessity: she travels well, and Emily had experience managing and teaching at Mellow Mushroom. She even had her own special dough recipe using sourdough, which she developed over the years; his name is Caroline, after her mother.

Building on the infrastructure they had developed at the dinner club, Emily and her staff, which now included Jen, who was fired from her job at the restaurant due to the pandemic, went into the takeaway business. Emily shifted her focus entirely to the evening club, while Jen focused on the restaurant, adding classic Chinese dishes she remembered from childhood to the menu.

“We wanted to be unpretentious,” says Emily. “It’s just fun, delicious food.” After Jen took over JenChan’s and Emily hired a nightclub manager, Emily set her sights on creative menu design again. In March 2022, the couple expanded into East Atlanta Village with the opening of MikChan’s, named after their four-year-old son. The new establishment gives Emily the opportunity to experiment, including some well-chosen updates to fast food classics: Taco Bell-style Mexican pizza, homemade Pop-Tarts.

“I really enjoy robbing fast food,” says Emily. “I’ve been testing a fake from a personal pizza pan for a couple of weeks now, but it’s not fat enough. Just so you know, Chick-fil-A: you’re next.

The goal, according to Emily, is to be silly and not take yourself too seriously. The menu includes burgers, tacos and cubano. There’s also a Frito pie, the aforementioned Mexican pizza, and “Mongolian sauce” – essentially a French sauce with Mongolian beef. Picky diners can chew on boiled peanuts, which are sold by the litre, and wash them down with porridge made from the Senegalese bissap hibiscus drink.

It should be clear by now that Emily isn’t relaxing. The business that started because she didn’t have enough hours in the day has now expanded to three concepts, with more on the horizon — not just banh mi, but what Emily calls “all our smoked chicken.” . . essentially an excuse to drink beer and smoke chickens in the driveway on the weekend.”

She also hopes to host pop-ups for her employees to help them hatch their own restaurant ideas. “It’s hands-on training that you don’t get in culinary school,” she says of learning to cook by going out and doing it. “Yes, you learn all the tricks, but it’s very different when you’re just cooking for the people you’ve loved all your life. I think the experimentation and freedom you have because you have to learn the rules yourself is really incredible. Accidents that just happen to food are the best thing on the planet.”