There are three smiles of goodness alongside Broadway and Morningside Heights—starting at West 125th Street, Chokolat Patisserie (Coffee Bar), 3187 Broadway, New York 10027; and Jin (Ramen Shop), at 3183 Broadway. If one walks south to 122nd Street you come upon a delightful bakery (Take out & Eat In) located at 3111 Broadway. These businesses are nestled on a quiet street; its owners are Jenny Ko and her husband Ifan Chang.
On Friday, August 17th, I interviewed Jenny Ko. We sat at the counter on modern bar stools while I ate a tasty Strawberry Parfait with Homemade Granola. Her radiant smile beamed like the bright sun.
Jenny, where are we now? This is the Bakery/Patisserie, the original store, we opened five years ago. Our café is at 125th Street, next to the subway station.
What do you enjoy about owning a bakery? I like making people happy. When you see somebody eating your food, they are happy, they are smiling. That makes me feel good.
Why did you choose to open your businesses on the Upper West Side and Broadway? I like this area, Columbia University, Morningside Heights. It’s up and coming. It’s gotten a lot better, in the last few years, because of the stores that are popping up. When we first opened up here, there was not much going on in this area. In the last few years, new restaurants have opened their businesses on this stretch of Broadway. It just seems that—there is new light coming into this area.
Could you tell me something about your Japanese Restaurant? Jin is right next door to the café, Chokolat Patisserie. We opened Jin in February; it is the first Ramen Shop in Morningside Heights. I think the closest is below 59th Street.
What is the definition of Ramen? Ramen Shop is a Japanese noodle dish. Our shop takes six hours to make the stock for the pork broth, and three hours for the chicken. We make our noodles in house. We are all about freshness, quality, and doing our best for all our stores.
What is your favorite pastry? I like chocolate chip cookies.
I laughed, “Really?” I asked. Something simple, I love the smell of chocolate chip cookies. There is nothing like a warm cookie, when the chocolate is melted, it’s tasty.
What do you treasure about being an entrepreneur? I like the freedom it gives me. Doing something that I like; instead of working for someone else. It’s great, even with working long hours—I don’t mind, because I like it.
What is your business background? I went to New York University for Accounting and Information Systems. I have some business background and also, my parents owned a restaurant for ten years prior to myself opening a business. So, I grew up in the restaurant business. I knew it would be a lot of hard work, long hours. It is not just the fun and games you see on television. It’s not all glamour, or about being famous; it’s hot and sweaty, because you are the one making the food. I came into the business because I really love baking and I like that people enjoy eating my food.
Did you attend a culinary school? Yes, I attended the Institute of Culinary Education, at 23rd St. and 6th Ave.
What are some of your popular items on your menus? The popular items at the café, Chokolat Patisserie are: Butter Croissants, Red Velvet Cupcakes, and Brownies. We only sell breakfast at the Bakery, no cakes, so the popular items here would be the various croissants. The popular items at Jin are: Tonkotsu Ramen, Miso Ramen, and Kara Age (Japanese fried chicken).
What kind of atmosphere one notices about your restaurants? It is an easy comfort. We are now sitting in the Bakery, it is a much smaller store, more of a takeout place; however, the kitchen is large. We do the baking here, and in the mornings send everything to Chokolat Patisserie. At the café there is a lot more seating, it’s a coffee-bar. We try to make it that kind of environment—where people feel comfortable; they can come in for a couple of hours to hang-out. There is free Wi-Fi, people do their homework, talk with their friends, or take time to relax.
What’s next? We are actually doing renovations and construction work right now on another restaurant. It is going to be American Comfort food—southern influence, because I am actually from the south.
You are? When my family first moved to the United States, we moved to Alabama. The funny thing is: When my husband’s family came to the United States, they moved to Mississippi. Later on, my husband and I met in New York. So, it is very funny to us that we are both from the south and we both love Southern food.
Where will your new restaurant be located? On Amsterdam and 121st Street; hopefully, by the end of the year; it is going to be southern with a kind of twist, because both my husband and I are Asian (Taiwanese). We will try to bring a little bit of that background. It’s not going to be just straight southern food. We will try to put a spin on it—a little bit of ourselves.
What are your favorite southern meals? I like fried chicken and fried catfish.
It’s all wonderful, Jenny. —Thank you, we have been happy here for five years, there is a lot of love— in what we do.
Catch it if you can at www.chokolat.com.