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Life and Work with Tsz Chan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tsz Chan.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve been fascinated by food and design as early as I can remember. My childhood consisted of making dishes from cooking shows on PBS and making greeting cards, shirts, and stickers for friends and anyone I came in contact with!

This attraction led me to a fine arts degree at the University of Southern California with a minor in business administration. After spending four years in the pursuit of design, I decided to indulge in my passion for cooking which led me to working for a Michelin-starred restaurant called Sona.

The owner, David Myers, quickly realized my background in design and requested that I brand their new restaurant project, Pizzeria Ortica. I then shifted my focus to design as I felt I could make more of an impact designing than being one of the many cooks in the kitchen.

Since then I’ve designed for various design firms, always volunteering for food-related projects. I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to design for Whole Foods Market, North Italia, Paper Plane Wines, along with countless other brands.

My life changed when I started freelancing and met Lien Ta of Here’s Looking at You at a birthday party. She was bringing HLAY to life and I worked with her to brand her restaurant. Through working with her, I was greatly inspired by her grit and journey.

So when my good friend and serial entrepreneur, Joey Ngoy, came to me to collaborate on a food concept in 2016, I jumped at the chance. After much consideration, we created our concept as a love letter to Hong Kong as I was born there and Joey lived there for six years. We named it Bolo, after our favorite bread from Hong Kong, the Bolo bao.

Bolo means pineapple in Cantonese, but the bun itself doesn’t have any pineapples in it. The reason is that the cookie topping mimics the appearance of the pineapple. As this was a part of our heritage, we spent a year rebuilding the bun from the ground up—it was very important for us to get it right and update the recipe.

With the Bolo bao as our foundation, we then started creating dishes around the bun, one of which is now named one of LA’s top fried chicken sandwiches by Eater LA! We’re currently at Smorgasburg every Sunday where we get to share our love of all things tasty.

We’re beyond excited to open our first location this summer at the Glendora Public Market.

Has it been a smooth road?
I’ve learned it’s never a straight line when starting something new. From creating a bread recipe that can withstand fried chicken without collapsing, to preparing sandwiches in a timely manner for a hungry crowd to building a team, everyday is a learning experience.

At times, I wanted to quit, especially during the early days at Smorgasburg when we didn’t have much help. I still remember getting blisters from chopping vegetables as it was important that we didn’t take short cuts!

However, the feeling I got from staying the course and working through issues made me realize that I have so much potential and skills to unlock within myself.

Looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t know how much I didn’t know before starting Bolo. If I did, I would have talked myself out of embarking on this road. Instead, I had focused on my love of food and design to merge my past experiences for this venture and have learned the rest as I go. Bolo is my real life business school thesis!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Bolo – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
Bolo is the world’s first fried chicken sandwich made with Hong Kong’s famous pineapple buns. Quality and care is our mission so every part of the sandwich has been perfected through a year of recipe testing.

Each sandwich starts with the Bolo bun, where we engineered the bread to be hearty, yet fluffy and eggy. We also took inspiration from multiple cultures to make the cookie topping so it has a balance of flavor and aesthetic.

Next is the chicken, where we use Jidori Chicken breasts, considered to be the Ferrari of chicken based on how they’re raised. We brine it in our own blend of seasonings for 24 hours for maximum juiciness and flavor.

We also make our own aioli and spice blends for spicy chicken sandwiches. Each sandwich is completed with our own slaw featuring jicama, bell peppers and herbs for a unique flavor and crunch.

Everyone who tries Bolo’s sandwiches have been a convert and we’re so lucky to have loyal fans that come visit weekly at Smorgasburg.

What also makes Bolo noteworthy is that my partner and I are not classically trained chefs. I’m a freelance brand strategist and graphic designer so I bring all my knowledge and experience to elevate Bolo through branding, design and creative direction. My obsession with food also lends itself to meticulously reverse engineer every recipe and component for Bolo.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve benefited from using?
If I have to choose a single resource that helps me be the best each day is powerlifting. It’s my form of meditation so I try to go to the gym every morning upon waking up. To see myself progress with the lifts has been so powerful in helping me train my mindset that it’s ok to fail and to try, try, try again.

As for books that are invaluable are Seneca Letters from a Stoic, and The Tao of Pooh. The entrepreneur journey has a lot of ups and downs like a roller coaster so I am always in search of ways to keep my mind in a good place.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Smorgasburg LA, 777 S Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90021
  • Website: eatbolo.com, tszchan.com
  • Email: hi@eatbolo.com, tsz@tszchan.com
  • Instagram: @eatbolo, @tsztime

Image Credit:
Cover: Lien Chen / Gym: Adrienne Gunde / Chicken Sando: Jakob Layman / Ice Cream Sando: Anthony Lu / Cooking: Jonathan Bang / Barbell Brigade: Arturo Ochoa

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