Hong Jie Chen takes over ownership of popular eatery; doors closed temporarily after transaction

Chan's of Dundee Chinese Restaurant is under new ownership and, with any luck, will open in a few weeks.

The business at 180 N.W. First St. was closed March 7 by the new owner, Hong Jie Chen, after the restaurant was put up for sale.GARY ALLEN - Chan's of Dundee Chinese Restaurant will re-open in early April under the new ownership of Hong Jie Chen.

Chen, a robust 22 year-old, caught wind of the sale and decided to jump into a new adventure with the blessing of his family. Chen has been involved in the Chinese restaurant business growing up so he is familiar with the scene and is planning on re-opening "around the beginning of April, if things goes well," he said.

Once Chen signed on the dotted line March 7, he decided to close Chan's down to prepare for the transition.

"My family has always cooked traditional Chinese food, so choosing Chan's was not a difficult decision," Chen said.

His father has played a main role in helping with organizing and preparing things for the opening and guiding Chen along.

"This part is new to me and takes more work than I thought. But I'm okay and right now I'm just filling out a lot of forms," he explained.

"My father owned a restaurant business and as a young boy I had to hang out in the stock room because, you know, as a kid, I could not run around the restaurant," Chen chuckled. "I love food and I love trying to see what I can do to make it better. We will have the same traditional Chinese menu, it will not change, but the taste might be different and hopefully better."

The only difference between the old Chan's and the new one is that they will be serving liquor.

"I just passed the liquor test, so we are moving along," Chen said.

He added that the plan is to keep the inside of the restaurant the same, but hire new cooks and staff.

"I know how I want the food to taste so hopefully I will find a chef that can understand that. It is the ingredients that make a difference, the taste of the noodles," he said.

Chen's life revolves around food and as a hobby he wants to create food blog videos with a cousin in town, but does not want to connect it to the restaurant. He enjoys spending his time responding to questions like "Where did noodles come from and how are they made differently in other cultures?" Chen said. However, "The restaurant is the business, the blog, is for fun."

Chen came to America with his family when he was 6 years old, not knowing a word of English.

"It was a whole new world for me when I first got here," he said. "I had to quickly learn to understand and adjust to the new culture."

Chen arrived from California three months ago to start the business.

"I did try to go to college, but I realized that it just wasn't for me. I am familiar with restaurants and want to use this as a stepping stone. I want to start with something that I know and understand and grow from there," Chen said.

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