PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A downtown Portland food cart that’s been around since 2014 recently made the hard decision to move out and into another part of the city.
It’s a big change for Mama Chow’s Kitchen, but mom’s influence will stay the same.
Jeff Chow, owner and chef at Mama Chow’s Kitchen, says that the joy he receives from cooking goes into every meal he creates.
“Work is very fun. I love cooking food. You have no idea. It’s so therapeutic for me. I mean, if I’m in a bad mood, I would just go in a kitchen. So, I’m cooking and I forget about everything. It’s that simple for me. I mean it really is,” Chow said.
The name of his food cart is an ode to the most influential woman in his life.
“I’m a mama’s boy, so, so basically my mom raised me. My father had a massive stroke when I was seven years old, so he wasn’t really around. And he had another stroke when I was 14, so he was definitely almost never around anymore,” Chow said. “I learned my craft working with her.”
Though she passed away in May of last year, her lessons will always be with Chow.
“She basically was a working single mom with three boys. We had to take care of ourselves growing up. So, a lot of little things like cooking rice and making ramen and finding steaks. She taught us when we were kids because she was never home,” Chow said.
Since starting up more than eight years ago, the Oakland, Calif. native grew a loyal following in downtown Portland, mainly firing up dishes for the lunchtime rush.
“We built this business upon feeding the local workers in the area,” Chow said.
But now, with more people working from home, the neighborhood is different, which pushed Chow to make a tough decision.
“We don’t feel as secure anymore. We don’t feel safe anymore,” he said. “We don’t want to leave downtown. Maybe one day we will return, but for our livelihood and for our state of mind, we have to right now.”
Mama Chow’s Kitchen will move to Southeast Portland in the Richmond Neighborhood at the Farmhouse Carts. With the location change, Chow plans to expand business hours and the menu.
“Now we have a little more time ’cause no one’s not going to be in a hurry. So we’re going to focus more on dinner so I can open up like my cookbook in my head and share more dishes that I have that I always wanted to share,” Chow said. “But it’s all about love for the food. I love making food. I think that that shows in the dish. The main idea for me is to make people happy with food. You know, if I can make you happy with what I do, I’m blessed.”
Chow will eventually close the downtown cart in the coming weeks before the big move. He hopes to reopen at the Farmhouse Carts in late November or early December.
While he enjoys several weeks off before that, he’ll also work on some recipes for the new spot Like char siu pork, beef chow fun and some soups.