Co-founder Paulo Wei proudly co-owns Our Kitchen, an Asian eatery in the East Village. The restaurant also sources its ingredients from his farm in Upstate New York, which means customers get to enjoy all-fresh and organic meals. Aside from running Our Kitchen, Paulo Wei is also a classically trained singer and a sophomore at Columbia University.
Our Kitchen sources its ingredients from Paulo Wei’s 43-acre farm located “alongside the Neversink River outside Port Jarvis.” The farm supplies the restaurant with several freshly picked ingredients to be used for frozen and fresh foods. Likewise, the farm could also ship “flash-frozen delicacies” anywhere in New York, including the Hamptons.
If you’re suddenly craving for “beef and farm-grown carrot dumplings, organic vegetable buns, and home-made tofu,” just call Paulo Wei and Our Kitchen. They’ll leave it on your doorstep. The restaurant has also opened an “on-site farm stand” for loyal customers to buy their fresh ingredients. They can also go on private tours to the farm’s gardens, and even order a catered lunch straight from the farm.
Paulo Wei and Our Kitchen started after his mother bought the farm, envisioning its transformation to something special. The farm had two large houses and an Olympic-sized horse arena, with good soil and water views.
Slowly, Paulo Wei built up Our Kitchen and turned into a unique farm and eco-retreat. With the help of his friends, who are also some of the “best Asian restaurateurs and chefs” in New York City, he has turned Our Kitchen into a “serious food brand,” boasting “great service, and incredible products.”
Our Kitchen stands out because of the people behind it. Everyone behind the brand are heroes and great human beings. Paulo Wei, Our Kitchen
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Paulo Wei: Our Kitchen stands out because of the people behind it. Everyone behind the brand are heroes and great human beings. They are compassionate, honest, and can take on any kind of hardship. One story that I can think of would be when we got a huge order last minute. The client needed dumplings in a short time frame, normally we would not take it because we have a policy for large orders to be requested a week in advance. This client wanted it and had a family reason for such request. I brought this case to my team and asked if they were comfortable in accommodating the potential client. All of them said yes right away. I was deeply moved and touched by this. Originally Our Kitchen was supposedly to be named as Grandma Li’s kitchen as a remembrance of my grandmother who was an excellent chef. I proposed the name, and everyone was fine with it. However, as we made further progress with the brand, I felt bad that everyone was working under my grandmother’s name. Therefore, I spoke with grandma to see what should be done. She suggested why not name it Our Kitchen. I thought it was a great idea especially coming from her. She told me that way everyone gets to be a part of the brand that we are all nurturing.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Paulo Wei: I owe my life to my grandmother and my grandfather for taking care of me as a baby. But I would call on my mother and my father in helping me to achieve where I am at today. There are so many people who helped along the way, my god parents, my team, my friends, and etc. however my mother and my father really did shine many insights for me while I was building this brand. My mother and my father separated when I was in third grade. Growing up with my mother, she has always been working 24/7. There wasn’t one time where she did not put down her phone while she was dining with us. Her hard work paid off for sure. Her integrity as a person and her hard-working ethics are something that I admire. So, while I was working on Our Kitchen, I would constantly remind myself of how my mother shaped and built her company from scratch. At the very start of our company, I would drive 3.5 hour every day back and forth while juggling Zoom university classes. I would wake up at 4 am and leave before the sun rises and get back to my apartment in the city at midnight. Looking back at it now seems like a decent accomplishment and a solid proof where I get to say to myself if I want it, I will make it happen. This is very reassuring for me. My father, also a business owner, is very similar to my mother and yet also very different. I honestly think the reason why they parted was because they shared too many similar traits as a person. They can and are best friends, but they cannot live under the same roof. During the time where I would travel back and forth, I would call my father who lives in Hong Kong. I would ask him for advice and just tell him what I was working on. He would suggest to me in hiring a driver for me or other ways that would make my doing easier, but I said no to all the kind offers. He was proud of me in saying no to him. He is this type of fatherly figure who would say things that would make you feel there’s an easy way out of a situation but deep down he wanted me to say no to those temptations. He lives by the philosophy of no pain no gain. Every time when I turn down his kind offers, he would break into laughter and say now that’s my boy.
In short, I am doing good to the world by advocating the important of paying attention to the mind, body, and soul.
Jerome Knyszewski: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Paulo Wei: I have brought goodness to the world through the making of Our Kitchen by providing job opportunities for my teammates. Since Our Kitchen is still in its developmental stage, I haven’t made an impact on the world at large. But within our community, I am advocating on the importance of naturally grown food and the importance of taking care of one’s body. During this crazy time, I took on my team members as a crucial part of the development in the brand. It was a highly selective process where I picked everyone on the team based on their merits as a person. Learning from both my parents, I’ve discovered that it is more important to work with good people than people who are good at something. I am also bringing more attention to the need of eating a healthy diet and advocating for growing your own vegetables. In short, I am doing good to the world by advocating the important of paying attention to the mind, body, and soul.
Jerome Knyszewski: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Paulo Wei: This is a tough one. I recently read The Conference of the Birds in my class with Professor Shelley in Columbia University. I loved this book because it offers such a great insight on how life isn’t about addition but rather subtraction. Instead of building and chasing after worldly attachments and giving into desires, one should learn to focus within. I did my second argumentative essay on this text. It was really hard to come to peace with the idea of letting go of the things that I defined as important. But as I make progress with the essay, I discovered what is this so-called self that I am constantly obsessed with. After some discussions with my friend and as I’ve finished this essay, I think I am at a good place in understanding and balancing the concepts mentioned in the text.
Do not rush. Make sure you observe clearly and judge with a sensible mind. Paulo Wei
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the main takeaways that you would advise a twenty-year-old who is looking to found a business?
Paulo Wei: Do not rush. Make sure you observe clearly and judge with a sensible mind. It is very easy to judge based on one’s interest or passion. It is great to be passionate about a project but make sure that it is sustainable, and do it based on the resources that you have currently.
Jerome Knyszewski: We are very blessed that some of the biggest name in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Paulo Wei: If I were to have a private breakfast with someone, I would love to have it with Anna Wintour. I attended the Vogue Forces in Fashion in 2019 and was shocked and amazed by how well-spoken she is. Hearing stories from the past and learning from her personally would really benefit me both in the development as both a businessman and as a person. Anna Wintour has the ability to stay relevant across multiple generations. This to me is an outstanding accomplishment.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!