The folks behind the 626 Night Market–Albert Chu and Patricia Huang–have a new takeout concept that functions as a creative platform to showcase local chefs by bringing healthy and delicious food to the community.
ChefBox, which opened this past November in South Pasadena, is stocked daily with an array of prepared meal bento-like boxes filled with a variety of cuisines ranging from modern Filipino, Caribbean, Puerto Rican, Southern, and Asian. Options include organic, sustainable and clean eating foods (perfect for fitness buffs), gourmet soups, and many vegan and vegetarian choices.
“Life is always busy and we’re always on the go. People have been coming here everyday because there’s always something different to eat. They don’t get sick of it and they don’t have to go through the hassle of cooking,” Chef Maithy Ngo told me as she unloaded her freshly made meals for the day.
“We also have a few concerned mothers from out of state that use our service to make sure their adult children that live in the area are well-fed,” Chu adds.
ChefBox currently has 17 different chefs that make fresh, gourmet prepared meal boxes. The store offers anywhere from 35-50 items at a time depending on chef and day. Not just any Average Joe can get their food in these coveted shelves. Albert and Patricia both personally get to know each chef, their unique story, and then interview and taste test every potential applicant.
Their current roster includes Chef Luis Castro of Patina fame who currently runs his own catering company, Chef Billie Sutton, a former Le Cordon Bleu chef that specializes in world cuisine, and Chef Philip Kwan of Mama Musubi, a veteran of the 626 Night Market and local farmers market scene.
Along side those already successful chefs, ChefBox has also taken on a few talented newbies such as Chef Maithy, an award-winning design engineer turned culinary creator. Her tasty and aesthetically pleasing Vietnamese meals have been top sellers, highlighted by sweet crab and creamy avocado spring rolls accented with edible flowers. The food isn’t limited to humans either. There’s even one chef offering human grade gourmet dog food.
Boxes typically run in the ten dollar (and up) range. For example on my latest visit the shelves included a chicken and wild rice box for $9, a vegetable pastel for $10, and seared salmon for $11.95.
Cutting the overhead that comes with opening an individual shop is a win-win for chefs who want to serve delicious food at fair prices. So far the concept is working. Despite only being open for a couple of months, ChefBox is already selling out frequently. Many of the chefs are doing so well that they are considering making ChefBox their primary business.
“ChefBox gives the chefs more creative freedom than their typical catering jobs. Allows them to embrace their passions,” Huang told me.
As a vendor representative for the 626 Night Market, Huang’s job included nurturing small businesses to help them succeed at the night market, but she quickly learnt that there were many factors that could go wrong for a small business tackling an event that large.
“Doing the 626 Night Market is a big opportunity, but if you did something as small as getting your banners wrong or not getting your batch of food quite right, your business day may have been ruined. ChefBox allows the chefs to constantly adjust and try new things. They make small batches and can really focus on the quality of their ingredients.”
Chu and Huang are putting their extensive experience towards the new concept, and based on their past success the future is bright. The last 626 Night Market broke records with its 117,000-person attendance. But the 626 Night Market only happens a few times a year. ChefBox is what they consider the retail version of the Night Market. Huang adds:
“Every community has extremely talented chefs. At the Night Market, we pull from the community and introduce them to their chefs and local food entrepreneurs. Just like how the 626 Night Market is a platform, ChefBox is as well. We draw from the local area and the money would feed the local vendors and community, something we are very committed to doing.”
ChefBox is located at 434 Fair Oaks Ave. South Pasadena, CA 91030. Guests can order in person, online, or go in and pick up from the store. Delivery is planned for the near future. Operating hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.