We had the good fortune of connecting with Dara Wong and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dara, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I always saw myself growing up to be an entrepreneur. Both my dad and my brother started their own businesses and they became my role models. I liked the idea of being able to build something from scratch and create a culture where people want to work for you. When a business, or in my case my restaurant, opens and closes everyday I know that I set that up to operate. I am super proud of all the obstacles and successes that we have endured as a restaurant and I know that the feeling I get from that only comes from being an entrepreneur.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Shift is a nice neighborhood bistro. You will always see someone you know when you go in. We have an interactive chef’s counter where the chefs cook right in front of you in the completely open kitchen. The restaurant is about 50 seats total so the atmosphere always feels lively. The food and drinks are extremely thought out. Each dish or drink is crafted with taste and presentation in mind. We try to use as much local produce and ingredients as possible.
There have been a few challenges since we opened 4 years ago. The most major one before Covid was when my business partner / spouse and I divorced. But we have found our stride again and are making new waves in the industry. Now Covid is an obvious challenge and like most other restaurants we are battling sticking with our mission and our vision and being safe during a very unpredictable time. What has gotten us through all circumstances has been perseverance and not being scared to try anything.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I am a big outdoor person so this would definitely include going out to the forest and hiking or going down south to the creek. We would spend some time up here in Flag probably at Rendezvous and maybe breakfast at Casa Duarte. Then down to Sedona to hike, see the sights and head to Elote or Mariposa for the views. If we had more time I would go to Phoenix to see a concert and eat the Dorados Tacos at the Cresent Room. Somewhere tasty for breakfast of course. I also love Tuscon and would take them there for burritos, tacos, and a few donuts!!! And of course go to the Saguaro National Park to see the Arizona scenery!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My staff deserves more credit than I do! My Chef, George Murkowicz, is truly talented and constantly inspiring me. My front of house manager, Joy Johnson, is always stepping up and refining her craft. My whole crew that I get to work with every day have had some influence on me. There is nothing more complimentary than having a loyal and inspired staff. I know that I have that at Shift, and I am super honored to go into battle with them everyday.
Hannah Rose Gray Photography