Take a peek into the Shell on twenty fourth and Rio Grande Avenue. Behind a beer cave and cabinets stocked with chips and champagne, there’s a small galley kitchen occupied by bok choy, bean sprouts and proprietor Wee Fong Ehlers.
A J2 cook dinner by day and business-owner by evening, Ehlers stated she opened Wee’s Cozy Kitchen in November 2021. But, because of the restaurant’s hidden location and lack of on-line presence, Ehlers stated she struggled to usher in clients for practically a 12 months. It wasn’t till a mixture of coincidence and collaboration with UT scholar organizations that Ehlers’ love for cooking discovered an adoring viewers.
Ehlers, a Malaysian-Chinese language immigrant, stated she adopted her sister’s household to Austin in 1999. For 11 years, Ehlers labored in The Castilian as a cook dinner answerable for massive batches of sauce — an expertise she stated she credit for her cooking capability.
Regardless of studying to cook dinner in the US, Ehlers stated she recollects childhood meals to create Malaysian flavors. To make sure her genuine flavors, Ehlers stated she makes some extent to supply solely the very best high quality elements.
“I grew up with the flavors (on) my tongue,” Ehlers stated. “Each time I modify my elements, I style it. I really feel it. I’m a part-time enterprise, (so) it’s extra handy for me (to) purchase frozen galangal (spice) as an alternative of the recent galangal, however the frozen galangal’s style is completely totally different.”
Chemistry freshman Justin Le, who stumbled upon Wee’s Cozy Kitchen on a late-night snack run, stated he may style Ehlers’s high quality elements.
“I walked into (Shell) to get a bag of chips and soda, however then (I) appeared to the nook, and there’s this little kitchen with some tables round,” Le stated. “I used to be thrown again as a result of I received the hen curry laksa, (and it had) large, recent greens that I can solely get again at dwelling. It jogged my memory of consuming homestyle meals.”
Le stated he instructed his roommate Yee Hong Pua, a pc and electrical engineering and enterprise freshman, about Wee’s after his first go to. But, Pua stated he didn’t give the restaurant a second thought till his scholar group, College Administration and Enterprise Analysis Affiliation, labored to extend Wee’s publicity by growing her Instagram web page and conducting revenue shares.
Pua, a baby of Malaysian-Chinese language immigrants, stated he particularly loved consulting for Ehlers due to her position in spreading Malaysian-Chinese language delicacies.
“Rising up, I didn’t actually see any Malaysian-Chinese language eating places round,” Pua stated. “The one Malaysian-Chinese language meals I may get was from my mother and father or going again to Malaysia. As an individual of the identical tradition that identifies together with her, it’s actually heartwarming to assist her enterprise develop.”
Pua stated he credit Wee’s speedy progress — a doubled Instagram following and options by Bon Appétit and The Infatuation — to her private attraction and keenness for cooking.
“(When) we began working together with her, I began to essentially see (her) attraction,” Pua stated. “It’s a one-woman store, she runs the entire thing. She places lots of coronary heart into her meals, and she or he takes time to work together with all her clients, which is one thing I don’t assume you see loads with eating places lately.”
Ehlers stated her newfound fame serves as a testomony to years of exhausting work and permits her to introduce Malaysian meals to the larger Austin group.
“It looks like I handed by means of a really shaky bridge (over) raging water (and) crocodiles (and) snakes,” Ehlers stated. “Now I do know my meals is sweet. It’s acknowledged, (and) I’m so completely happy (the) Malaysian identify is uncovered to Austin individuals.”