The anticipation of Timwah (@Dimsumjax) has been brewing for months. They’ve been building the hype on Instagram teasing us with dim sum tutorial videos and pictures of racks on racks of these beautiful little treats. I thought to myself, “Is this the real deal? Are the videos legit?” I left comments on nearly every photo: “When? When? Open yet? How about now?” I was able to make it to the opening day, and it was packed like a can of sardines. After about an hour, the table next to me couldn’t stand the wait and left without saying a word, but nothing could stop me from dim sum glory. I thought to myself, “Yes! More for me!”
I sat down with “dim sum master”/owner Guorong Fan to eat and talk everything dim sum. After running an online fashion business, Fan thought to himself, “What do I do next?” One of his family members asked him to come work at their shop in Gainesville at the Chinese/dim sum restaurant Yummy House, and he gave it a shot. It wasn’t too long after Yummy House that Fan became bored and packed his bags for New York. Dim sum ended up following him to the Big Apple. While reading a newspaper, he saw a job posting for a Michelin starred Tim Ho Wan dim sum restaurant about to open. Fan says, “I didn’t know dim sum got to this level!”
When you went there, was the interview process crazy?
The first thing they test is how to make the skin for the shrimp dumpling. It’s pretty much the essence of dim sum. It’s like the main thing. The interview process is pretty simple, they’ll give you dough and just give you a knife. Your salary is based on that pretty much. It’s based on your skill level. Obviously, the first interview I went in kind of like shaking, like what is this? I thought we were going to at least talk first. For a shrimp dumpling, one of the things they look for is one side has to be thicker and one side has to be thinner. You put the thicker side in the bottom of the steam, so when the steam goes up, it doesn’t break at the bottom. The top has to be thin so the heat doesn’t penetrate the top as much.
Are you surprised by how busy you are?
When you first came in (opening day) I was thinking everything would last pretty much through the day. It will be calm and smooth. The first day we sold out at lunch, then we prepped more the second day, and sold out again. Then, we thought alright let’s close for a couple days to regroup and think about how we should go about doing this. We hired more people.
Why dim sum?
My first contact with it, growing up in China it’s pretty much all around. You come in brunch or lunch time. Basically, you just want to have a conversation and chill out. You have tea and you have small food. You can try a variety of food, if you’re not hungry you can try a little. It doesn’t have to be a main meal, but it could be a main meal. It’s like an unlimited snack.
When i looked into it, there was lot of technique that is involved with it. (pointing to dim sum on the table) This one is steamed, this is baked, this is fried, and this one is stir fried. Then you have a different kind of dough. This is Chinese yeast dough, which is different from western baking dough. There are a lot of components involved. It’s a quite crafty way of cooking. You can pretty much release your creativity. You see what’s in the dim sum cart right now. We can change it up every month. We can take two things out and put two different things in. Every month we’ll probably have a monthly special. One thing in the baking part, one special in the fried or steamed. There’s not a limit to it. It’s not like my menu is fried rice and I gotta stick with that.
I get a lot of messages from people wanting to intern and try to learn how to make dim sum. Take this one specifically (points to dim sum on table), you gotta make at least 10,000 of these before you get a nice shape. It’s very time consuming. If I have somebody in here, I gotta tell them, “You gotta at least make a thousand before I can put that on a plate.” They’ll be like, “What the f***!?”
What are some words of wisdom you would give to other entrepreneurs?
A lot work, a lot of hours of work. I’m only open four hours now, but the prep work is probably double the time. If you want to be good in anything in general, you gotta have the hours in.
If you didn’t already notice, restaurants are falling from the sky in Jacksonville. Dim Sum Jax is solidifying Jacksonville as a foodie city! At the moment, they are only open for lunch and my advice is come 30 minutes before opening or prepare to wait. It’s worth the wait.