Take a peek into the Shell on twenty fourth and Rio Grande Avenue. Behind a beer cave and cabinets stocked with chips and champagne, there’s a small galley kitchen occupied by bok choy, bean sprouts and proprietor Wee Fong Ehlers.
A J2 cook dinner by day and business-owner by evening, Ehlers mentioned she opened Wee’s Cozy Kitchen in November 2021. But, because of the restaurant’s hidden location and lack of on-line presence, Ehlers mentioned she struggled to herald prospects for almost a 12 months. It wasn’t till a mixture of coincidence and collaboration with UT scholar organizations that Ehlers’ love for cooking discovered an adoring viewers.
Ehlers, a Malaysian-Chinese language immigrant, mentioned she adopted her sister’s household to Austin in 1999. For 11 years, Ehlers labored in The Castilian as a cook dinner answerable for massive batches of sauce — an expertise she mentioned she credit for her cooking means.
Regardless of studying to cook dinner in america, Ehlers mentioned she remembers childhood meals to create Malaysian flavors. To make sure her genuine flavors, Ehlers mentioned she makes a degree to supply solely the best high quality substances.
“I grew up with the flavors (on) my tongue,” Ehlers mentioned. “Each time I modify my substances, I style it. I really feel it. I’m a part-time enterprise, (so) it’s extra handy for me (to) purchase frozen galangal (spice) as an alternative of the recent galangal, however the frozen galangal’s style is completely completely different.”
Chemistry freshman Justin Le, who stumbled upon Wee’s Cozy Kitchen on a late-night snack run, mentioned he may style Ehlers’s high quality substances.
“I walked into (Shell) to get a bag of chips and soda, however then (I) regarded to the nook, and there’s this little kitchen with some tables round,” Le mentioned. “I used to be thrown again as a result of I obtained the rooster curry laksa, (and it had) massive, recent greens that I can solely get again at house. It jogged my memory of consuming homestyle meals.”
Le mentioned he instructed his roommate Yee Hong Pua, a pc and electrical engineering and enterprise freshman, about Wee’s after his first go to. But, Pua mentioned he didn’t give the restaurant a second thought till his scholar group, College Administration and Enterprise Analysis Affiliation, labored to extend Wee’s publicity by creating her Instagram web page and conducting revenue shares.
Pua, a toddler of Malaysian-Chinese language immigrants, mentioned he particularly loved consulting for Ehlers due to her position in spreading Malaysian-Chinese language delicacies.
“Rising up, I didn’t actually see any Malaysian-Chinese language eating places round,” Pua mentioned. “The one Malaysian-Chinese language meals I may get was from my dad and mom or going again to Malaysia. As an individual of the identical tradition that identifies along with her, it’s actually heartwarming to assist her enterprise develop.”
Pua mentioned he credit Wee’s speedy development — a doubled Instagram following and options by Bon Appétit and The Infatuation — to her private attraction and keenness for cooking.
“(When) we began working along with her, I began to actually see (her) attraction,” Pua mentioned. “It’s a one-woman store, she runs the entire thing. She places numerous coronary heart into her meals, and he or she takes time to work together with all her prospects, which is one thing I don’t suppose you see lots with eating places as of late.”
Ehlers mentioned her newfound fame serves as a testomony to years of exhausting work and permits her to introduce Malaysian meals to the better Austin group.
“It looks like I handed by a really shaky bridge (over) raging water (and) crocodiles (and) snakes,” Ehlers mentioned. “Now I do know my meals is nice. It’s acknowledged, (and) I’m so comfortable (the) Malaysian identify is uncovered to Austin folks.”