September 30, 2014

Chef Joseph Poon - Master Chef - Chinatown, Philadelphia, PA

Contact Chef Joe Poon

Joseph K. Poon Master Chef

Master Chef Joseph PoonMaster 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, 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. He recently published the inspirational, autobiographical cookbook, Life is Short…Cooking is Fun.

Chef Poon was  awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, State University of New York College at Oneonta. This honorary doctorate means a lot to him. He motivates and inspires students every day to be their best and “steal his knowledge and his heart”! He wants to share his talents with young people because he knows they are the future of our world. In addition to his honorary degree, he received the Asian American Award for Outstanding Community Service and Chinese Restaurant News named his former restaurant, Joseph Poon Asian Fusion Restaurant, to the list of “Top Chinese Restaurants.”

His warmth and exuberance have earned him appearances on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and TV Food Network’s “The Best of…” A half page personality profile in The New York Times, said “In the last three decades, Joseph Poon has risen from impoverished immigrant to national culinary fame, known for his Asian fusion fare, his ability to carve bulbous watermelons and pumpkins into delicate swans, and his role in opening the center of the region’s Asian community to the outside world.” And an article in The James Beard Foundation newsletter stated, “The story of how Philadelphia Chef Joseph Poon got to where he is today could be the script of a Hollywood movie.”

Philanthropy is a top priority for Chef Poon and he has been recognized for the time and energy he devotes to charitable organizations. In addition to the Asian American Award for Outstanding Community Service, he received the March of Dimes Guy Przybycien Award for commitment to the community through volunteerism and excellence in culinary arts in 2004, as well as the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relation’s Human Rights Award for Community Service, the Center City Proprietors Association first Real Small Business Award for Community Service for his philanthropic work, the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) Community Service Honoree, the “Nice Touch Award” from the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, a Harvest Award from Philabundance and in April of 2011 Chef Poon was honored to receive  CCP’s Community Philanthropist Award.

 

Chef Poon continues to receive culinary accolades as well. In addition to the praise from Chinese Restaurant News, Chef Poon was invited back to the James Beard House in New York City to prepare the East Meets West Chinese Moon Festival Banquet and he won first place in the Wilma Theater’s Sculptural Dessert Competition.

Chef Poon’s popular “Wok ‘N Walk Tours of Philadelphia Chinatown” was called one of the best culinary tours in the country by TV Food Network’s “The Best Of…” and featured in the Group Tour Leader and Group Tour Magazine. The tour is designed to teach people about his community. He offers the 2-1/2 hour walking tour, by appointment, and includes lunch or dinner, a Tai Chi demonstration, a tour of a state-of-the-art Chinese kitchen and a Chinese vegetable carving lesson, as well as a 2-hour tour of the community with stops at a fortune cookie factory, a Chinese herb store, an Asian bakery, an Asian grocery store and fish market and more. The tour is popular with bus groups, adult education schools, scout troops, school children, senior centers and individuals interested in getting an insider’s look at one of Philadelphia’s most vibrant ethnic communities.

In addition to the TV Food Network, “The Tonight Show” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” Chef Poon has appeared on national television shows including PBS-TV’s cooking show “Christina Cooks,” as well as “The Makeover Story” and “The Dating Story” on the Learning Channel and “Home Matters” on the Discovery Channel. Chef Joe Poon works closely with the New Tang Dynasty Television, an independent, not-for-profit public service television broadcaster serving the Chinese community across North America, to promote Philadelphia Chinatown and Asian culture. Chef Poon is regularly featured on “10! At 10,” a popular news magazine show on NBC-10 and on many additional TV and radio shows. He has also been featured in Nation’s Restaurant News and many consumer magazines, as well as in newspapers from Philadelphia to New Orleans.

 

He was honored at a fundraiser at his alma mater, State University of New York (SUNY) College at Oneonta. The funds support The Joseph K. Poon Scholarship Fund, which he created to allow undergraduate human ecology students to travel abroad. He currently serves on the advisory board for the food service and nutrition department at the University. He has served as Visiting Chef at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, Chef-in-Residence at Northampton Community College, and as guest chef at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the State University of New York Cobleskill. Chef Poon has served on the Culinary Arts Advisory Board for The Art Institute of Philadelphia and as an adjunct professor for The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College.

Chef Poon has served as Chef Consultant and National Culinary Spokesperson for the National Watermelon Promotion Board and as an expert witness and food consultant for Cleary & Josem LLP, attorneys at law. He helped introduce the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau’s new experiential tours at the National Tour Association.

Chef Poon spends a significant amount of his time actively pursuing opportunities to give back to the community through charity and volunteer work. Later this year he will travel to New York for a fundraiser for tsunami victims. After 9/11, he spent two days in New York City cooking for the rescue workers on “The Spirit of New York.” In addition, he translates legal documents for new immigrants, judges’ speech competitions, tests water for the EPA, teaches cooking classes to disadvantaged youth and helps out the local elderly. Chef Poon donates his time to dozens of charitable causes each year.

Background

Chef Poon’s training began when he was a teenager working in airline food service in Hong Kong. He was fascinated by the chef’s carved fruit and vegetable centerpieces and sculptures. When the chef refused Poon’s request for a lesson, Poon purchased several hundred potatoes and practiced until he mastered the skill himself. The art has become one of his trademarks. Poon showed that same tenacity when he arrived in Philadelphia with $8 in his pocket and a limited knowledge of English. He worked as a dishwasher, then waiter, in construction and in a fortune cookie factory – holding as many as three jobs at a time.

With accumulated savings and a scholarship from The Episcopal Church, Joe entered SUNY at Oneonta. He majored in nutrition and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1978.

He followed up his degree at Oneonta with a four-month intensive program at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) where he studied international cuisine. He returns to the CIA periodically to hone his skills.

His first entrepreneurial venture was Sang Kee Restaurant, which he opened in 1979 and is still in existence under different ownership. Sang Kee, the city’s first duck house, paved the way for Joe’s future success. His most formative venture, the highly successful Joe’s Peking Duck House, opened in 1984 (just one year after Joe received his green card) and was named one of America’s top 14 Cantonese restaurants by USA Today in 1989. Called the Duck Master by many, Chef Poon’s Peking style duck developed a dedicated following in the greater Philadelphia area. Guests would line up outside his restaurant waiting for a chance to enjoy his secret recipe. Following the success of the first Joe’s Peking Duck House, a second location was opened in Southern New Jersey.

Chef Poon sold these two businesses in order to accept an executive position as managing chef for China Coast Restaurants, a subsidiary of Darden and a sister company of Red Lobster and Olive Garden. After 6 months in their employ, Poon was given responsibility as product manager for the 52 restaurants. He created Tour of China recipes for China Coast, which were rolled out to the entire chain. Poon has also worked as a consultant for Disney World Dolphin Hotel and 4 star Italian restaurants in Portland, Maine, and Boston, prior to opening Joseph Poon Asian Fusion Restaurant in 1997, Chef Kitchen in 2005, and Joe’s Peking Duck in 2008.

These walk-in restaurants are now closed for walk-in dining while Chef Poon continues his tours, classes, private parties, team building events carving demonstrations and other event activities at 1010 Cherry Street.

Chef Joseph Poon