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The culinary arts of Tommy Wong

Wong revisits Hammond shortly after Trey Yuen closes

By Zachary Araki
On June 16, 2017

Chef Tommy Wong of Trey Yuen prepares to show off his cuisine skills for an audience of about 80 during the Hammond Regional Art Center's annual Culinary Arts Series. 
Courtesy of Phillip Colwart

Tommy Wong participated in the Hammond Regional Arts Center’s annual Culinary Arts Series following the recent closure of Hammond’s Trey Yuen.

Wong served about 80 attendees hot and sour soup, dumplings, a fried rice dish, a stir fry with vegetables and marinated chicken, pineapples and fortune cookies on Jun. 12 in the Alack Culinary Equipment and Supplies Superstore.

HRAC Media Coordinator Tara Bennett explained why Wong was chosen for this month’s culinary event.

“Trey Yuen has been a staple of the Hammond culinary scene for many years now,” said Bennett. “We were so happy to have them featured for our dinner in June. It’s been 17 years since Trey Yuen last participated in the annual Culinary Arts Series, and it’s an honor to have them join this year as their last hoorah in Hammond. Trey Yuen’s presence will be missed in Hammond.”

The Wong brothers first displayed their culinary arts in Hammond by opening Trey Yuen in 1971. The restaurant closed on May 31, 2017. The property was sold to Bill Hood Automotive.

Wong explains the reasoning for his family’s decision to close the Hammond location.

“My older brothers felt it was time that they spend more time at home with their grandchildren and do a little more traveling,” said Wong. “46, really 47 years is a long run for any kind of restaurant, so he decided he’s not gonna come anymore. We saw if my nephews wanted to take over, but they have two successful restaurants of their own. They have the Cate Street Sea Food Station and the Boston Restaurant, so they’re very busy running their two restaurants. They said, ‘We don’t need to take over because we’ve got our thing going on.’ So, my younger brother and I decided to consolidate the two restaurants and just keep the Mandeville location going.”

Despite the closure, Wong still intends to remain linked to Hammond.

“People say, ‘We’re gonna be missing you in the Hammond community,’” said Wong. “We’re not really leaving Hammond. We’re still very much a presence there, and like I said, we consider that our home. Our family burial plot’s gonna be there. When I leave this earth, I’m gonna be resting in peace in Hammond, the city that we all love and call our home, that we identify with. We appreciate all the support that we’ve gotten over the years from the St. Tammany and Tangipahoa Parish community, but we draw from an 80-mile radius. We’ve been very fortunate and humbled. I’m serving four generations now. People are bringing their great-grandkids to eat, and I’m watching the kids that I grew up with bring their grandchildren.”

On its last days before closing, Trey Yuen received attendees for a goodbye meal. The Hammond Kiwanis Club honored Trey Yuen with the Walter Zeller Awards, and Mayor Pete Panepinto gave the Wong brothers the keys to the city.  

“We’re very much involved in the community,” said Wong. “Our kids have grown up here, and our mother taught us that. Her saying was ‘Don’t forget who feeds you,’ which roughly translated means, ‘Don’t forget who butters your bread,’ which means the same thing. The community supports you. You also support the community. We do a lot of charity work.”

Wong offered advice to aspiring chefs and restaurant owners.

“The hours are long,” said Wong. “If you love it and like doing that, then it’s your passion, but if you had other choices, I would suggest doing that. First of all, I tell people you have to work on the weekends. You work every weekend. You work every holiday when everybody’s playing. My weekend’s on a Tuesday or Monday. You’re on your feet all the time, but it’s very rewarding in the sense that when you do a party for somebody or anniversary and they’re very satisfied, it’s a good feeling and you get immediate feedback.”

Wong believes that Trey Yuen’s success lies in the family’s bonds to each other and dedication to their cuisine.

“We’ve been doing it for so long,” said Wong. “We started in Hammond in 1971, and it’s been quite a long journey. Most restaurants don’t last this long. Part of our secret is that we have five brothers, and we’re able to cover each other. You’re not stuck here the whole time. If the kids had a ball game or they have a dance recital, we’re able to cover each other, and that’s how we’re able to maintain our sanity for so long. Usually, most guys by themselves, they burn out pretty quick, just get fed up or whatever. It takes a lot of people, and it takes a lot of effort to maintain a restaurant, especially a restaurant this size. We’re open seven days a week, but again, it’s very rewarding. It’s just something we like to do.”

Chef Tommy Wong of Trey Yuen receives a Hammond Regional Arts Center award of appreciation for his participation in the 2017 Culinary Arts Series from HRAC Director Katherine Marquette.
Courtesy of Phillip Colwart

 

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