(Sept. 18, 2020) Since launching food service earlier this month, OC Chopsticks Asian Bistro owner Jack Chen has experienced a groundswell of interest from patrons attracted to the ambiance and impressed by the cuisine.
Longtime restaurateur Chen’s latest culinary venture, which is located in the Outlets Ocean City, held a ribbon-cutting celebration attended by an array of local dignitaries last Thursday.
“Everybody had a taste of the food and got really happy,” he said.
Chen said early feedback has been encouraging.
“I put a lot of time and energy into the restaurant,” he said.
The attention to detail is evident with numerous interior design elements and custom woodwork creating a warm ambiance.
“I had a design team and put extensive work into the setup,” he said. “If I want to do something, I like to do it the perfect way.”
Chen, who relocated to the U.S. from southern China at 19, has worked in the culinary arts for a quarter century.
“I grew up near the ocean and that’s why I like seafood,” he said.
Prior to running several Asian-themed eateries on the Eastern Shore, Chen worked behind the line.
“I am a chef too,” he said.
After stints in Baltimore, New York and Virginia, Chen established sushi restaurants in Salisbury and Cambridge.
“We were really early, but now it’s getting popular,” he said. “Twenty years ago in Salisbury there was no such restaurants.”
Regardless of past business ventures, since kicking off plans to open OC Chopsticks in late 2019, the subsequent onset of covid-19 delayed the process.
“Our original plan was to open in the beginning of July,” he said.
Despite construction delays after work got underway in March when coronavirus slowed life to a crawl, Chen proceeded as planned.
“I know that we only have one way to go and it’s forward,” he said. “You never say lose and fight for it.”
Based on the parade of consumers last Thursday the fortitude has proven sound.
“After we opened the doors [Thursday] we were busy all day long,” he said. “I had no time to eat lunch or dinner.”
Chen said the initial reviews from patrons have been overwhelmingly positive.
“I can feel the welcome and support from the community,” he said. “People still like to see something new.”
Chen said while profitability is vitally important, the overall dining experience is the true test.
“It’s not about the money,” he said. “When people say they want to come back, or even stay here, it makes me feel good.”
Appreciating clientele desires in West Ocean City, Chen has strived to create a top-flight dining environment, even bringing a sushi chef on board with 15 years of experience in high-end establishments in New York and on Long Island.
“The taste is the most important,” he said. “I’d rather hire a good chef from New York. We might have to pay more, but that’s OK.”
Although only able to operate at half-mast during the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, OC Chopsticks can seat up to 100.
Regardless of beginning with health-safety restrictions in place, Chen espouses confidence the new operation will blossom.
“When the dawn is coming it’s darkest,” he said.
Weathering difficulties strengthens resolve, Chen said.
“You have to work very hard to create a business,” he said. “Life is not always smooth and sometimes it’s rough, but I always believe we can get through challenges.”
OC Chopsticks is open Sunday through Thursday from noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday hours are noon to 11 p.m.
For more information, call 410-801-1111 or visit occhopsticks.com.