Mei Chau and Ah La Ko-Oh: The Accidental Chefs

Unlike many business school graduates, Ah La Ko-Oh, 31, isn’t working in a bank. She’s making Brazilian pão de queijo (cheese bread) at a start-up food business she launched in New York after finishing her MBA last year. Now Ko-Oh, born in Korea but raised in Brazil, spends her days baking and her weekends selling the beloved snack from her home country at the Hester Street Fair and LIC Flea.

Mei Chau, 50, also didn’t plan to go into the food business — she trained as a visual artist. But now she is chef and co-owner of Aux Epices in Manhattan Chinatown, a cafe serving Malaysian home cooking with French hints. (Before they opened Aux Epices last year, Chau and her husband ran a Malaysian restaurant in TriBeCa for 15 years.)

In this segment, the two women discuss how their businesses share foods from their home countries with other New Yorkers.

“I create food out of my own desire to create the taste and the food that I remember,” Chau tells Ko-Oh.

Listen to Part 3 in this series Beatrice Ughi and Eileen Formanes: Passion for Food Becomes a Profession

See what happens when you bring together women food entrepreneurs from different generations and different ethnic backgrounds to talk about food, business, and flavor.

Audio produced by Emily Martinez. Photos by Ben Jay.

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation, and the Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation.

AboutAnne Noyes Saini
Anne Noyes Saini, Food Editor, produces WNYC's The Sporkful food podcast and is co-creator of the MOTHER podcast. She covers food culture, immigration, women, and the elderly in New York City — especially in Queens, where she lives. She has contributed to NPR The Salt, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Narratively, Serious Eats, VICE, Feet in 2 Worlds, Real Cheap Eats and City Limits magazine.