Title: An owner, operator and chef at Mosa Asian Bistro.
Who or what was your first cooking influence? I would have to say it was my mother. My dad (Eddie Pao, an owner of Mosa and a partner in Formosa restaurant) was at work most of the time, so I didn’t get that much exposure to the restaurant. But I learned most of the Chinese cooking from my mom (Charleen Pao). She used a lot of rustic ingredients. A lot of traditional Chinese dishes that my grandmother passed on to her. Family recipes.
What was the first thing you ever cooked or baked? Sunny side up eggs. That’s what my uncle taught my mom. My mom never knew how to do a fried egg until she got to America and he taught her that. It was strictly an American thing back then. Taiwanese people didn’t really eat sunny side up eggs for breakfast. They just usually either scrambled them or stir fried them somehow.
When did you decide to become a chef? I’d been going to UT (University of Tennessee at Knoxville) for a year. I spent a year back at home to help my dad really create Mosa. He was older at the time, so he definitely needed some extra support. We had to create a lot of recipes from scratch. He never knew how to make pad thai, pad see ew or any of the curries. ... It was totally out of his realm. As we were experimenting (with) recipes we found online, using that as a template and tweaking it to our taste, I loved it. I loved the chemistry of it. I loved creating something that was just delicious.
What is something important a fellow chef taught you? Being able to multitask. I wasn’t very good at that, at first. I think almost everybody, if trained a certain way, can handle more than they (think they) can handle, at a certain point.
Have you ever created something in the kitchen? A Thai cashew dish. It was Thai cashews, zucchini, red peppers, mushrooms, carrots and your choice of meat, chicken, beef or shrimp. The ingredients were already there, but I figured we needed something that was Thai based, but not totally curry based.
What do you cook at home, if anything? A lot of grilled fish, like mackerel. I like Korean food because it really fits my diet. I’m going on this gluten-free almost pescetarian diet. So, I eat a lot of grilled fish, a lot of Korean kimchee fish.
What’s your favorite food? Vietnamese pho.
What’s your least favorite food? Raw tomatoes. Actually tomatoes and eggs, the combination of those two things. My mom used to cook that for breakfast. She cooked the eggs and sliced the tomatoes and put them on top.
Mosa Asian Bistro is at 850 South White Station Road; 901 683-8889
Michael Donahue, 901-529-2797; email@example.com