Overnight success is like a Broadway musical come to life. Someone has such a great idea or invention or TikTok that the world can’t help but stand up and applaud. Further accolades and, more importantly, riches, follow. It’s great fun in one act, and it almost always misses the big picture.
Chef Eric Huang pecking house, a mobile feast he describes as a cross between American and Taiwanese fried chicken, seemed to come out of nowhere in the pre-vaccine pandemic. Headlines flew at the take-out and delivery-only location for weeks waiting list. pop up followed Huang’s success in running the operation from his family’s disused Queens restaurant and, with a little more brick and mortar presenceNevertheless temporaryPecking House was one of Time Out in New York best new restaurants of 2021. Now Huang and his business partner Maya Ferrante is set to open Pecking House’s first permanent location this month. And it all took anywhere from one night to a lifetime to execute.
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“I grew up in a Chinese-American restaurant and spent much of my childhood there. And so I always liked being in restaurants,” Huang says.
“And [Pecking House] was obviously not the intention of the trip. My mother immigrated here. And the goal was for me to go to college and become a doctor or something. Or a musician; I was a cellist. And then I went to college, and I really didn’t like anything in particular that I was studying, and I didn’t know what I was doing with my life for a long time. And I wanted to go back to restaurants.
Coming back meant cooking in his college town outside of Chicago, pivoting to a culinary school and eventually working as a sous chef at Eleven Madison Park when it was still synonymous with excellence rather than disgrace. Huang left that position in early 2020 with no plans to become New York’s most popular fried chicken purveyor.
“It feels like an accident we’ve come to love,” Huang says. “That was never really what I intended to happen. I was just hoping to help out my family and, you know, do some sales to pay the rent or something. Obviously, people have really embraced it and seem to really like it. And it’s been a journey for me to get to this point where, you know, I think my original mindset was always like, oh, we’ll do that for now, it’s fun. It might still be, but I’ve gotten to a point where I really, really enjoy it.
“Especially with the current state of the world, I think bringing that kind of comfort to people, through food and fun experiences, is really, really valuable. And I didn’t expect that. For the better or worse, fine dining is a lot more ego driven. It’s a lot about, you know, expressing yourself as a chef and showing people your vision. It’s a lot more relaxed. And, you know, if I may say, a little humble, to be like, hey, this is really good food, we want to offer it to you in a fun atmosphere at an affordable price, and we hope you really enjoy this. ”
The brand new and latest interpretation of Pecking House will open in the coming weeks on Flatbush Avenue in St. Marks, where Park Slope and Prospect Heights meet. In addition to the fried poultry that has made it famous, the restaurant at the counter will expand its menu and will soon offer beer, wine (in cans or disposable cups) and possibly cocktails à la carte. And here Huang and Ferrante has the opportunity to create the destination they haven’t quite had yet.
“It seems more real day by day,” Huang says. “Every day we go in and see the progress made, we make decisions on how things are built, etc. So it’s starting to get pretty cool and exciting. Having been a vagrant restaurant for almost two years now, I don’t recommend it. It’s not a terribly easy or smooth experience to move from place to place and open a restaurant everywhere.
“But, you know, we pushed forward as best we could. And yes, we are super excited to finally build our own house. I feel like we can finally start doing what we really want to do.
Without having to travel all over town, negotiating space and storage in various locations, and calibrating for new equipment that sometimes involved having to 86 certain menu items, all the while, Huang says, confusing some bit the consumer, he and Ferrante are able to establish the concrete business that has been a bit of an abstraction for the past two years. The pair are both grateful for those previous opportunities and for this new chance for Pecking House to be its own thing.
“The first thing was just, you know, getting the space, boring as it sounds, in a good shape. It was quite old and not well maintained and we wanted to make sure the bones of the place were well maintained and refreshed. We wanted three deep brothers because we’ve always worked with two little ones. It’s quite difficult when you’re a fried chicken restaurant, to do that. And we wanted woks, we had really missed that working with woks, cooking with woks is something that’s really important to me; it’s really integrated into all the flavors and the way we cook at Pecking House.”
The tools, space and unique location will allow the restaurant to consistently deliver what it is known for and continue to grow.
“I think what’s fun about Pecking House is this really fascinating intersection of Southern American cuisine and Chinese cuisine. Even exploring it through the lens of Pecking House, I hadn’t realized how many crossovers there were, how many similarities there were. How much they share is both based on surviving and making do with what you have. So I think there will be a lot more fascinating and fun ways to explore that. It will always be based on that kind of canon of exploring my identity, understanding American cuisine and Southern cuisine through the lens of growing up here, Chinese-American. But we plan to expand the menu with sides and different styles of fried chicken and other great Southern classics that have our interpretation.
The purpose of the space outside the kitchen is fun, inviting, casual and picnic-like with room for about 45 people; an easy and fixed pop-in point after all the time they spent making pop-ups. And, though it’s intentionally the opposite of Huang’s dining experience, the sparkling water on tap, one of the chef’s favorites, is a somewhat whimsical touch. And Huang says he would like to collaborate and host other hospitality professionals, as he has been before.
Pecking House has many lives already, and this next step couldn’t be farther from how it started, as a newcomer offering hospitality and a break from days and days of pantry dinners. at a time when people were still wiping themselves. delivery containers and eat alone or only with members of their household or sometimes in pods. Now it’s a restaurant. Go to.
“People will sit together and enjoy this really good food,” Huang said. “Fried chicken is the best thing to share.”