BJ: Keegan! Thanks for taking the time to hang today. Where are we headed off?
Keegan: We’re headed to a restaurant supply store that I go to about once a month or whenever we need to re-stock on any equipment needs (usually when something breaks or gets lost in the trash). It’s located in San Gabriel Valley, the epicenter of Chinese food, or most Asian food in general.
BJ: This place is wild! Do you ever get lost in here, losing track of the day?
Keegan: I laugh every time I come in here because it really brings out my age. I used to have the same gitty feeling about going to toy stores, and then it was skate shops, and now I find myself nerd-ing out over restaurant supplies. They have anything you can imagine for a kitchen + variations for all those things. I love walking through the wok section and checking out all the different woks they carry…it gets pretty specific.
BJ: Haha hey man, whatever keeps us feeling young at heart. Hey, so what sparked your interest in wanting to operate a restaurant of your own?
Keegan: It’s quite a long story, but I’ll try to keep it as short as possible. Growing up through high school and college, my sister and I always had this dream to share my mom’s food in some capacity. As years went on and she worked in fashion, and I worked in the skate/surf apparel world, I found myself always working on a loose business plan for a noodle shop. It was a way to exercise my creativity and dream of owning my own business. We first operated as a pop-up business on the side while myself and the rest of the family worked full-time. We’d meet up once every month or two when our schedules permitted on the weekends, and we’d host pop ups in Koreatown in an alley behind our friend’s studio called Pico Studio. Everyone would bring their own booze and our friends would DJ while we served up noodles. It was always really fun and felt so underground and punk. The pop up went on for 4-5 years, hopping from venue to venue with my family. The idea to operate a restaurant of my own started brewing a couple years into it, and I think during the last year of pop ups is when it really felt real.
BJ: Sounds like a damn journey and a half! Being located in LA, there’s sort of a huge, “foodie” cult. Has there been any kind of battle with that? Critics can be rough!
Keegan: I had the opportunity to open this business in San Diego, but I always told myself I would open in LA. Not only because it’s where my roots are and where my family is from, but I knew that the competition would be tough, and the critics would be rough, but, I knew that if we could make it in LA then we could make it anywhere else down the road. It really is tough in LA…there’s a lot of “foodies” who think they know everything about food and that they are the judge of whether a restaurant is good or not. Fortunately, we’ve had a lot of “foodies” on our good side, but every once in a while, you’ll encounter a bad seed who just wants free food and thinks they are our only chance to reach new customers.
BJ: Well said! Tasty food is tasty food at the end of the day. Outside of Woon, what are some general hobbies of yours?
Keegan: Well, as I’ve gotten older, my hobbies have definitely changed, haha. I grew up skating, snowboarding and actually playing competitive golf. I went on to work in the skate/surf industry for a majority of my career, but now the only thing that stuck with me is really golf and I picked up tennis, haha. I golf at least once a week and play tennis once or twice a week, and it’s really been a savior for me during COVID. It’s hard work being in the restaurant all day, every day, the constant decision making can take a toll. So, it’s been nice to escape that with my buddies or with my girlfriend when I can.
BJ: I gotta say, you make it look all so damn easy. Can you explain some of these dishes that you’ve rustled up for me?
Keegan: Haha, I wish it was as easy as it looks because it’d be a lot easier to find wok cooks. On the wok I cooked you some Veggie Noodles which are actually vegan. The Beef Noodles and Veggie Noodles are our signature dish. My mom has been making them for me since I can remember…it’s my sister and my comfort food. They are a stir-fried noodle which is the main star and we cook fresh daily. They are a thicker, chewy noodle which is cooked to almost al dente so there’s a bit of bite to it. That’s the texture we were obsessed with growing up. And then we cook it in a really hot wok so that it gets a nice sear taste to it. We call it ‘wok hay’ in Chinese or ‘breath of the wok’. I also made you some of Mama Fong’s Five Spice Chicken Wings which are her secret recipe and have been extremely popular. The recipe is pretty close to what she used to make us, and it’s pretty awesome that everyone else gets to enjoy them now.
BJ: Talk about comfort food, your dishes make me want to instantly knockout for a few. Haha, your food is dangerously good, man. By the way, this playlist you threw together for us is damn good. Are these some tunes that have been in your rotation lately?
Keegan: It’s a hodge podge of overplayed music that I listen to haha. We have a Woon playlist that plays on shuffle/repeat every day since we opened the shop. We keep adding songs to it, but then those get overplayed too. However, I just dragged some of the songs from that playlist to put the Banks one together. These are the ones that I will either never get sick of, or that have been rotating lately and feel fresh and new.
BJ: Yeah, I’ve actually had this one going in both mine and my girlfriend’s car for some time now haha. Well damn, are we both smelling a future collab with Banks Journal?
Keegan: Haha, that would be awesome! I already have some ideas brewing….who wouldn’t want a Banks x Woon work shirt or utility / kitchen apron??
BJ: Last question and you’ll probably hate me for it, but how many days a week are you grabbing take out from your restaurant? Haha I mean, it definitely has to be a nice perk. Your food is outta here man!
Keegan: Haha, it’s pretty funny cause I just had the Beef noodles last night for the first time in like months. The only reason I had them is because we had an extra one that was a mistake during service, so I brought it home. I’ll fire up some fishcakes or wings for myself every now and again, but definitely not a full order. It definitely is a perk for grocery shopping though. Sometimes I’ll just pillage the walk-in fridge for eggs, produce and definitely alcohol. I think the greatest thing is being able to try new wines almost weekly and then bringing home some beer after a long shift!
If you're in the Los Angeles are be sure to check out Keegan's restaurant Woon Kitchen and order some takeout.