Philly Creative Guide

Creative Personality

Joseph Poon | Celebrity Chef

Interview :: Joseph Poon
by Ruth Weisberg, 1 Feb 2008

Master Chef Joseph Poon is known for his Asian Fusion Cuisine. He prepares fresh meals with simple elegance and a dash of adventure. From his contemporary and quirky venue in Philadelphia Chinatown Chef Poon hosts private events, conducts Wok 'N Walk Tours of Philadelphia Chinatown and teaches cooking classes. In addition, he leads trips to China and participates in dozens of philanthropic events each year.

To learn more about Chef Poon, check out his website: josephpoon.com.


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Host: Ruth Weisberg; Production: Tat Communication:
Tom Thompson, Videographer; Sage Thompson, Lighting/Sound; Editing, Jessica Lloyd


PCG: I'm Ruth Weisberg, for Philly Creative Guide, coming to you on location, from Chef Kitchen, 1010 Cherry Street in the heart of Philadelphia's Chinatown. February is Chinese New Year, and this is the Year of the Rat... and who better to ask about this and other questions than this month's Creative Personality – celebrity chef Joseph Poon.

Joe is a native of Hong Kong. He came to Philadelphia in 1972 and hasn't looked back since the day he arrived. Happy New Year, Joe. So this is Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rat. What are we in for?

JP: 2008 is Chinese New Year. All of Chinatown is having special Chinese New Year banquets. People make a reservation for a 10-course dinner, including happy ending lucky money. And also a glass of champagne, so let's get drunk for Chinese New Year! This is what we have to offer the public.


PCG: What an amazing, fascinating, and diverse guy! So much so, that when I came back to the editing suite to review the footage of our interview on location, I realized we covered a lot more ground and talked about a lot more than just food and Chinese New Year. For example, this is the Year of the Rat. Chef Poon is a lot like the critter himself.

JP: They are very intelligent, hard-working, challenging, friendly and compassionate; they care about other people. They never give up, and most of them are very successful. Determination, they want to do it, and they mostly get things done. This is the rat.


PCG: In his autobiography, "Life is Short, Cooking is Fun!" Chef Poon shares not only his recipes, but his work-life philosophy. One of them is 'turning your scars into stars," something he knows all too well.

JP: My restaurant burned down, and it burned my face and it burned my hand. But it's a lesson! Life is not that smooth. Don't give up! Even the burn is a good lesson to share with other people. You don't need to sit in a chair and sigh, no good! Why do that? Keep going. Just like when you go to boogie, you gotta boogie all the time! Wah, enjoy your life!

"...don't give up, even when people turn you down. This is the real, real world. What we call 'dog eat dog.'"

PCG: Just like everything he does, Chef Poon jumps in with energy, zeal and passion. He emigrated to Philadelphia in 1972 from his native Hong Kong. He barely spoke a lick of English. He had only $8 in his pocket. Yet what he lacked in language and finances was only fueled by his grit and determination.

JP: So don't give up, even when people turn you down. This is the real, real world. What we call 'dog eat dog.' But one thing—don't give up! You keep practicing. I can make it. You can make it, too!


PCG: Chef Poon has also known his share of heartache and setbacks. Even when businesses folded, or when business deals went belly up, still, he continued. He says there's a life lesson in that, as well.

JP: I work real hard to become better. Today, I have so many people. I reach out to show them I can do it. Because they kicked me out, how can I write two books?! If they didn't kick me out, how can I establish the Joe Poon Scholarship Foundation? If they didn't kick me out, how could I get my honorary doctorate degree? The most important thing is, how can I reach more people? So do I hate them? No! Thank you for kicking me out! Sometimes God has a hand in giving you a certain direction and you have to follow, so let go, and focus on the future. Today, thank you for Sang Kee and Joe's Peking House. They helped me to be a better person.


PCG: With all he's accomplished, his mission is still incomplete. Poon says his greatest legacy will be paying it forward by sharing his knowledge, zeal and compassion with the next generation.

JP: Teach more kids. To give more of my knowledge away before I go away. That's what I'm trying to concentrate on now. Once you learn, you give back to society. That's the best way.


PCG: Thanks, Joe. To learn more about Chef Poon, check out his website: josephpoon.com. For Philly Creative Guide, I'm Ruth Weisberg. Thanks for watching.

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