Birchwood Cafe nominated Cook St. Paul and owner Eddie Wu for this blog post for being a "small gem of a restaurant" that sources locally and has a noticeable community impact. Congrats Cook and Eddie!
Last Friday, a crowd of Forward Eaters and I ventured out to Cook to partake in that evening's Korean pop-up. The restaurant is typically open for breakfast and lunch only, but hosts occasional evening pop-ups to support freelance chefs, raise money for causes, and highlight Eddie's interest in ethnic flavors. Immerse yourself in last week's pop-up through the photos below, and enjoy Eddie's story as told by Eddie to me in a recent interview.
"My name is Eddie Wu, but I'm generally the whitest guy in the room. My wife is a Korean adoptee, and I took her last name."
"I was born and raised in South St. Paul, spent time in San Diego and Denver, and eventually made my way back to home to St. Paul."
"I started washing dishes at age 14. I was a lit major, I'm an ex-marine, I managed restaurants, I managed a strip club. I knew I wanted to work in the service industry but I wanted to be more than a boss, so when this space opened the thought of opening my own restaurant started to become more real."
"My main goal was to create a place where anyone could come eat at a reasonable price and feel comfortable whether they were on a date or by themselves or with children or out on business."
"I can relate to kids in the neighborhood that are lower class or in poverty. I grew up in welfare. I know what's it like to be in a neighborhood where there's generally nowhere to go. I wanted to project my social awareness into the restaurant and create an outlet for change by partnering with local businesses like Urban Roots and hiring kids from the neighborhood."
"I was told my first work was 'McDonalds.' I grew up on Tombstone pizzas, Chef Boyardee, and generally had a 7/11 diet. When I started dating my wife she told me I had to eat better. So I did. And then we continued it for our kids when we had them."
"I'm not a chef, I'm a cook who runs a restaurant."
"This space has been a diner for years, so if I figure if I can't make this restaurant concept work here then I shouldn't be allowed to be a dishwasher anywhere."
"Cook St. Paul is perfect for the 'royal blue collar' crowd. It's a 'greasy silver spoon.'"
And I think Cook is a perfect restaurant for YOU! They're open M-F from 6:30am to 2pm and Sat-Sun 7am-3pm. 1124 Payne Avenue, St. Paul. Stop in a support Eddie's passion and dedication to making St. Paul even more fantastic through food.
Eddie nominated the folks behind Skaalvenn Distillery for my next post! Here's what he has to say: "Tyson and Mary [the distillery's owners and only staff] are the only distillers in MN that I know of that actually make their booze (they make rum, habanero rum (the best rum on the planet), vodka, and aquavit. Also, they get their grains from MN, and have been to the farm where they are grown. They are amazing people and crazy hard workers." Stay tuned for the inside look!