We had the good fortune of connecting with Jiale Tian and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jiale, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I was born and raised in the Szechuan province in China. It is a place that famed for it’s delicious Szechuan cuisine and the hometown of panda. However, when I moved to Arizona and start to study for my undergraduate degree I found there were very few authentic Chinese restaurant. I really missed my hometown food with the original recipe and ingredients of Szechuan Cuisine. And most of People here in Arizona even do not know about the Szechuan cuisine. so I decide to start this small business. It is a place that Comfort the Chinese who living aboard and also a platform the introduce Americans in Arizona the most authentic Chinese food.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I can say that Original Cuisine is the most authentic Chinese restaurant in Arizona. Firstly, myself is very critical about food, so I insist my chef to use the most original recipe of Szechuan Cuisine. And, also, I believe dining is not just eating food, it is an overall experience on gustation, smell, vision and the surrounding environment. Our customers will always get the most authentic “Chinese” experience at Original Cuisine. It was not easy to get there today. The first challenge we have overcame is that most of American do not know what is Szechuan Cuisine at the very beginning when we opened the business. A lot of Chinese people come and eat at our restaurant, but only a few of American. But we know that is not a good sign even we can make a lot of money by just selling food to Chinese people. To maintain this restaurant as long term business, we have to rooted in the local community. And we were really lucky that a local food critic of Azcentral stopped by, tried our food and wrote an amazing article for us. Then a lot of more people get to know about us and try our food. That was a really good start for us. And after, we also start to trained our server to have better explanations on dishes, so the customers won’t get confused when they entered our restaurant. Besides that, we also took dishes’ pictures by ourselves, so the customer will have a very clear understanding of the dishes when they are ordering. Then we got more and more local customers. So the first challenge was overcame by local media and more clear explanation of dishes with servers’ better oral explaining and clear picture. What I have learnt from this is if your customer do not know what your product is? Try your best to explain to them and do not just let them go.
Another big challenge was the COVID. At the first three years, the majority of our customers were the ASU students especially the Chinese students. After COVID, most the students were gone, people were all stayed at home. Nobody eat out. So we started our second round on the local community marketing. We started to invite the local foodies to come and try our food and also start our Instagram account and tiktok account for advertising. The beginning was not easy, I only got a few replies when I sent out a lot of invitations. But luckily, some great foodies visited us and introduced us to their followers. And then more foodies start to come by themselves. What I learnt from this is the importance and impact of social media in this time.
Besides those challenges, we also have some sweet moment from our customer. We had a special guest last year, she is 80 year old lady who is also from Szechuan. She was sick at that time and can not eat out, so her family order food from us every week. That day she came to our restaurant specifically to thank us to make the authentic Szechuan food for her. We also have a lot customer that driving 1 hour to eat our food. I really appreciate their support.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The first thing of course is bring them to my restaurant. I will also take them to my school ASU, the Tempe downtown and the Tempe town lake. I think those 3 spot are both places full of energy. I will definitely take them to the Miss desert since they have the best boba drinks. If they come at the beginning of a month I will take them to First Friday event in Phoenix. If they will stay for a week I will drive them to Sedona. That is the most beautiful town I have ever been.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My chef team deserve the most credits. My chef, Jiang, is the most critical person in the kitchen. He is from a cooker family and learnt the cooking skills from a very famous Szechuan cuisine master in Szechuan province. With over 20 years of excellent cooking experience, he has presented the best food for our customers since we opened in 2017. Working with him is very interesting and I also learnt a lot from him. We more like friends and not just boss and employee.I really appreciate his hardworking. My partner, Sida Liu, also got credits. Since he helped me build the most professional kitchen team and server team.
My wife, Ran, also helped me a lot. She is major in design, so ,the interior of the restaurant and menu are all designed by her.