Today we’d like to introduce you to Asia Mei.
Chef Asia was born in Fremont, California, and grew up right in the middle of the Silicon Valley. Growing up in an atmosphere where pursuing financial or technological careers were the norm, she always knew the typical office setting was not for her. While having an extremely competitive nature always resulted in doing very well at school, it allowed her to truly thrive in demanding sports like gymnastics and martial arts. These disciplines consumed her extracurricular life and would, later on, influence her culinary career and success on the line.
Living in the Bay Area was always an amazing source of exposure to different cultures and their food. While Asia didn’t know how to cook anything, the taste of her mother’s fried rice or the tamales from the neighboring Mexican taco stand always offered a satisfaction that nothing else could rival. When she moved to Boston, MA to attend Boston College’s Honor’s Program, it was in those “college food” dormitory years that she learned just how much she missed the availability of the good food at home. After achieving a successful degree at BC in Economics and Biology, working as a stuntwoman in Los Angeles during the summers, Asia was lucky enough to land herself in the Boston restaurant world and has never looked back. Deciding her last semester that this would be the route she’d always hoped for, she skipped her graduation ceremony to search for a job to learn how to cook; this would be the day she wandered into the revered Hamersley’s Bistro, where she would leave as a Sous Chef four years later. Here, Asia excelled on the hot-line and formed much of the basis for her style of cooking with classical French technique and New England ingredients. She would later further her love for the many possibilities of American cuisine working with the well-known Kinkead brothers at Sibling Rivalry as an executive sous chef.
Even with an undying love for all things butter and salt, she then worked as head chef at Whole Foods for two years, which allowed her a unique opportunity to round out her multi-cultural approach to bright, healthy flavors with which everyone can identify. She was able to quickly appreciate the chance to explore the delicious, healthier possibilities found in diets based more on organic, vegetarian, and food allergen free values. At the Franklin Southie, she was excited to bring her culinary acumen and energy to execute menus based on fun, fresh flavors. The inviting neighborhood setting of the Franklin provided the perfect opportunity to do so with every season. After a year, she moved on to Sam’s on the Waterfront in the flourishing Seaport District, with the ability to further utilize local, quality ingredients. In a 3 ½ year duration, her own spin on both East and West Coastal style cooking strived to match the beautiful restaurant’s aesthetic and contributed to numerous glowing re-reviews, accolades, and praise.
Now, returning to the old Franklin Southie space, Chef Mei opens Moonshine 152 as her first solo chef-owned venture. Fueled by the neighborhood’s energy and evolution, the restaurant will focus on maintaining a fun, sustainable, delicious take on bar and kitchen offerings late into the night. Entrusted with the legacy and soul of the space, Mei, and the Moonshine crew couldn’t be more excited to be a real fixture in the community, and continue to draw inspiration from it for everything from the spirit of the food to the drinks and warm, inviting atmosphere.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
While we are consistently on the up and up, it is certainly difficult to the small business/privately owned, neighborhood joint in a part of town that is most known for its sea of large taverns and sports bars. Everything from the long, arduous hours to the issues that arise from staffing for a busy, vibrant late-night scene, can be true tests to the commitment of the crew and vision. Even though all of that, though, we have been able to really stand out amongst the Boston restaurant community as a very tightly knit, welcoming, and badass team that is helping to define the “new Southie” while being able to hold on to old school values and the importance of understanding legacy and history.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Moonshine 152 story. Tell us more about the business.
We have received accolades such as “Best Fried Chicken in Boston”, “Best Veggie Burger”, “Best Neighborhood Restaurant”, “Best Industry Hangout”, “Best Eclectic Restaurant”, amongst others by specializing in inspired, modern American seasonal fare that is a reflection of my (the chef/owner’s) background and cooking career. The cuisine is steeped in New England tradition but also draws heavy influence from global street food, comfort food, and Californian values.
Moonshine 152 is one of the only female/chef/minority-owned businesses in this part of town, if not the only one. We are known as being one of the last places where you can find me here literally every night of the week, whether it’s 11 am for brunch or 2 am for late night, cooking behind the line, dishwashing, food running, barebacking, whatever it may take at that given moment to help the restaurant/bar run as smoothly and consistently as possible.
What sets us apart is our attention to detail, the exceptionally fun/vibrant and approachable food menus that are always available until 1:30 am every night of the week, an amazing brunch on weekends, and a welcoming atmosphere. The staff is very well known for being like a family to everyone, whether new faces, neighborhood regulars, or friends from neighboring restaurants who just got out of work. We aim to provide the same high level of service and attention to every single person and are honored to be one of the real community hubs.
I am most proud of how far we have been able to take Moonshine 152 so far, in just a few years, and how we’ve been able to do it without selling out. We could have easily given up on full late night menus when they took away late night train service. Calls every day could have been made that would make staffing so much easier, but we would have lost part of that defining character that makes it a place reliable enough to draw the respect of such an incredible restaurant industry. It has been a battle trying to stick to our guns and apply old-school approaches to business in such a competitive, modern atmosphere, but being able to offer such unique food and levels of service are what have come to define us.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I mainly believe in “making your own luck” by simply working hard, sacrificing, being a good example, and just trying to prioritize decency, love, and respect. In general, I feel that if you conduct yourself as best as possible while making the best food/drink you can, then everything follows suit and those who surround and support you or your business will reflect what you’re putting out into the world.
That being said, I’d be lying if at times I didn’t feel like the luckiest girl in the entire world… those times mainly center around when I see how blessed I am with the past staff, the current one, and promising aspects of any future members. Being a mixture of the juxtaposition between someone who is an adrenaline junkie and also wildly meticulous and responsible, the fact that we are continually pushing forward and trying to achieve better is exciting, and the type of thing that I thrive on. I am very lucky that I was able to find a professional outlet like cooking and owning a restaurant to allow me to highlight my strengths as a leader, a chef, a businesswoman–all while simply being a friend and supporter to everyone in this incredible town.
As for bad luck, to think that it’s all going to be rainbows and glitter all the time would be foolish. Whatever hard times bring, I generally find that you never know how strong you are until you survive whatever difficult shit life may throw at you. Mediocrity isn’t an option. Defeat isn’t an option. Once you identify a hurdle or modicum of “bad luck”, then it’s up to you to figure out how to either fix things or learn from them and move on. Not to sound super cheesy, but if you can do that, then even bad luck can end up serving a positive purpose.
- Address: Moonshine 152
152 Dorchester Avenue
- Website: www.moonshine152.com
- Phone: 6177524191
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: chefasiamei
- Facebook: moonshine152
- Twitter: moonshine152