By Carol Masshardt
(This series will focus on local chefs)
Moonshine’s owner/chef, Asia Mei, could be doing a million things successfully. A Boston College graduate in Biology and Economics with minors in Film and Education, Asia, 40, was a competitive gymnast and has enough sustained intellectual and physical energy to take on most any challenge. She is a keen observer even as she moves at an Olympic pace.
“I had a revelation that people had a passion for what they were doing, and I only hoped that I would find something that was mine,” she said of her early experiences.
It would not have been easily predicated that this oldest child or Chinese immigrant parents from Silicon Valley, California would be so totally engaged every day at her Broadway Station location at 152 Dorchester Ave.
“Although my mother is a great cook, my parents were surprised when I went the cooking route. They thought I would be a lawyer, doctor or that kind of profession” she said. She graduated from a competitive high school, summer program at Harvard and college at BC all the while exploring a myriad on interests and talents to match.
“I never really cooked. I was too busy, but I did know that an office was not for me, but I loved Farmer’s Markets,” she said, and “I knew I needed something where I would have a challenge every day.” Her other realized dream was to live in the community where she worked and South Boston has been her home for more than the last twelve years.
Asia started as a dishwasher in her friend’s family restaurant in the Fenway, and then walked into the premier Hammersley’s Bistro days after her college graduation. Though she attributes this break as timing, surely Gordon Hammersley saw unusual motivation, commitment and said “yes” to this young woman without the more typical culinary school background.
“I bought every book I could find and then it was working “on the line,” where the best learning happens,” she said. After four years of progressive responsibility, she went on to Whole Foods, and Sam’s and the Franklin Café until launching her passion, Moonshine, seven years ago. It has survived a changing demographic, and the far-reaching pandemic which proved daunting to small businesses and especially restaurants.
“I don’t allow myself to succumb to negativity. I’m hopeful for a lot of things. I do every aspect of this work every day, and I want a cross trained team. I give my team a vision and something to believe in and that is why I went this route, really” she said in a matter of fact and ever inspired way.
In the pandemic, Moonshine shifted to greater take out but still it wasn’t easy. Asia Mei used her time, cooking and delivering food with her team to non-profits and first responders. Art, animals, and athletics were also sustaining as she integrates this all in what seems like more than 24-hour days. There is little question that she could be on TV and embrace the competitive parts of this field, but that doesn’t seem to be her driving force.
“Cooking on a hot line, the craziness of every day, combining the bold and bright flavors of CA with New England tastes in a menu that both holds favorites and offers new choices is where I want to be,” she said.
Talking to customers and her team every minute of long workdays is also part of her natural and earned success. Using her bi-lingual English-Spanish skills to relate to a diverse workforce and community as she prepares for the upcoming season of outdoor, indoor, and take out season with a busy bar and popular menus for dinner and brunch is all in the days work. The allure of the kitchen’s fire draws her back and carries her forth.
Asia Mei could be doing a million things well, but she has found a passion, and a community where she lives and works. She makes the work of Moonshine look easy that is not. You are likely to appreciate not only wonderful food at Moonshine, but something of the passion that drives this exceptional chef and her team.
(firstname.lastname@example.org for comments and suggestions)