The 2016 Innovation Fund: Pinch Crawfish Kitchen
The Innovation Fund is a four-week crowdfunding competition that gives VFA Fellows the opportunity to launch their business ideas and projects. Eleven Fellow-led teams are off to the races sharing their new ventures with the world and hustling to raise as much money as possible on Indiegogo between now and March 16th. Between now and August 4th, the team that raises the most money will receive additional funding to launch their venture.
Sean Wen was born and raised in the great state of Texas (H-town represent). He graduated with a degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin (Hook ‘Em). While at UT Austin, Sean became very involved with a program called 3-Day Startup, further stoking his entrepreneurial spirit. He is now a resident of San Antonio, Texas working as a Membership Manager for Geekdom, a collaborative co-working space where Entrepreneurs, Technologists, Developers, Makers & Creatives help each other build businesses & other cool things together. On the side, he is bringing community crawfish boils to San Antonio through Pinch Crawfish Kitchen.
Food is a funny, paradoxical concept. It’s both simple, and incredibly complex – in taste, flavor and preparation. It’s also one of the few things in life that is both necessary and enjoyable. Usually, that’s not the case (why can’t I look like Chris Hemsworth AND eat pizza everyday?). The idea of food being “necessary” has multiple levels to it as well – it’s necessary for health but also necessary for building culture & community. With Pinch Crawfish Kitchen, we care about building community just as much as building great flavor in our crawfish. This is why we’re bringing community crawfish boils to San Antonio – inspired by Vietnamese flavors and culture.
“Like Greeks with his falafel, Italian with his to-mato pasta
What roti is to a rasta…” Nas – Fried Chicken feat. Busta Rhymes
Okay, so Greeks aren’t technically known for falafel, BUT this line from Nas still goes to show how important food is in defining culture and community! This is precisely why Andrew and I decided to go into this food venture – because we wanted to continue defining the legacy of our food and people.
Growing up, food was always around us. However, being Asian-Americans growing up in the South, the food you eat, see and smell can seem a bit peculiar to others. Even when the foods are Gulf-Coast classics with an Asian spin, what was normal for us was inevitably some exotic oddity for everyone else. But because the community continued to cook this way, and serve & sell food this way, we literally saw an entire city evolve. We began to understand the power of food. If you look at Houston today, various food cultures have thoroughly impacted the region’s cuisine, as well as the region’s appetite.
Diversity is a beautiful, beautiful thing. We want to bring this level of community to San Antonio, as well as to push San Antonio’s culinary boundaries.
So at this point, you may be wondering, “how does a community crawfish boil achieve these things?” Excellent question. If there’s one food that personifies community, it’s crawfish.
Growing up, anytime we went to a crawfish boil, it was always about cheerful bonhomie, family and good times. Even when writing this, there’s a bit of wistful nostalgia in the air. I loved the feeling of being around the people I cared about – eating food that I enjoyed. These fond memories are things we certainly do not take for granted, and we understand it takes these sorts of moments to build an identity within a community. This is why we want to throw crawfish boils for San Antonio – so that people from all walks of life can eat well and feel good about being a part of something. I want to say that we’re also realistic and understand that we can’t individually change San Antonio, but if we’re a part of a (delicious) process, then we’ve done our job.
“If you fry him crisp or you boil him right, he’ll be sweeter than sugar when you take a bite. Crawfish.” Elvis Presley, Kitty White –from the film ‘King Creole’
Our crawfish is inspired by Vietnamese street cuisine. In fact, many of our ingredients come directly from authentic Vietnamese recipes. As the saying goes, “recipes are a better, more accurate, version of folk tales – both are time-honored and culturally significant!” (Disclaimer: No one actually ‘says’ this. I say it, but I didn’t want to quote myself, but…too late, I guess.)
But what the heck is “Vietnamese-style crawfish”? We say it a lot and understand it may be a foreign concept for some. Fair enough. Quick history lesson: many Vietnamese immigrants came to the Gulf Coast (primarily New Orleans & Houston) after the Fall of Saigon. They were originally fisherman, so naturally they trapped crawfish and caught regional seafood. Vietnamese chefs then took this local fare and cooked it the only way they knew how – Vietnamese-style. Injected with delicious Asian-inspired ingredients, crawfish began to take on a new, more flavorful, identity. Here’s an entry from our Indiegogo campaign describing our crawdads:
Our crawfish experience begins with a multi-step cooking process to ensure that each and every batch of your crawfish is soaked in flavor. We take traditional crawfish elements and spice it up with Asian-inspired ingredients — such as fresh chopped garlic, green onions, and hand squeezed citrus fruits. We top it off with a pinch of our secret medley of spices. The fresh crawfish is served with a side of juicy Andouille sausage, sweet corn, and spicy red potatoes – all tossed and drenched in our mouthwatering garlic butter sauce. *drools*
We have the exciting opportunity to bring a highly demanded food to a city that is becoming more open to trying new flavors and exciting cuisines. What a time to be alive.
Thank you for everyone that has given our dream a chance. I’m unbelievably humbled and grateful by the amount of support we’ve already garnered, and cannot wait to get this concept out from the kitchen and into the community.