Restaurateur and Chef Dennis Chan is the 2022 North Florida and Florida State Small Business Person of the Year.
He was honored May 25 at the 30th Annual Small Business Week Awards at the University of North Florida.
The Florida Small Business Development Center, in conjunction with the US Small Business Administration, presented the awards.
Chan’s family has approximately 70 years of experience in the restaurant industry in Jacksonville.
He could have relied on that foundation alone when he moved his Blue Bamboo Canton Bistro & Bar in 2021 from near Tinseltown in Southside to San Jose Boulevard in Mandarin.
Instead, he worked with mentors at UNF’s Small Business Development Center to secure advice and funding to open a new business amid the coronavirus pandemic.
He partnered with the SBDC for a $50,000 Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan that allowed him to open the restaurant while operating at the original location.
This took him through the early stages of near-quarantine conditions that shut down many restaurants across the country.
“As a small business owner, there are so many things we can do wrong without guidance. This award gives me the confidence to keep growing and to keep doing what we do,” Chan said. .
“That tells me we’re on the right track.”
Chan is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and specializes in modern interpretations of traditional Cantonese comfort food. He combines Asian, Italian and French cooking techniques to prepare his dishes.
Several times a year, he opens his restaurant on Sundays to serve dim sum, a version of Asian tapas.
Before opening his own business, he worked in guest relations at Walt Disney World Resort, managed restaurants, and interned under celebrity chef Ming Tsai at Blue Ginger in Boston. He opened the first Blue Bamboo in 2005.
Chan, 49, is an author, having written the cookbook “Hip Asian Comfort Food.”
He won the 2018 General Mills Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest. Rather than entering an Asian recipe, his entry was for his Sunshine State Orange Crunch Cake dessert.
He called his restaurant a “cooking lab,” citing his delight in recreating traditional recipes for current tastes. Examples include red curry shrimp and grits and Indonesian curry pastes.
Chan grew up in the restaurant business. His mother taught him the basics of cooking when he was little. One of his first jobs was working as a cashier in the family restaurant.
Chan worked with mentors and financial partners from the SBDC to create a business plan and secure the necessary financing to build the stand-alone restaurant.
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