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Food is an Attitude – Homeland ‘Fuzhou Expats’ Special (1)
All, Features
January 24, 2014

Name: Sam Doe

Nationality: American

Tags: Family man, Sommelier, Restauranteur, Baker

Been in Fuzhou: 3 years

As Lincoln mentioned in his interview, the hardest thing for expats in Fuzhou to adapt to is not the differences in culture, but the change in diet. Generally, after moving here, most foreigners hope to be able to find something that they already know and like, at least for a while, as opposed to a sudden change. In this difference in cuisine, some foreigners hope to bring an appreciation and skill with western food to Fuzhou, and turn a hobby into a business. But there is more to it than that – for Sam, it’s about changing attitudes towards food.

Transcript of Sam’s Interview: 

H: Hey what brought you to Fuzhou, Sam?

S: My brother had stayed in Fuzhou for 4 years by 2011. At one time, he got me here to visit her and showed me some opportunities for products outsourcing. I was impressed by the dynamic of China’s economy, especially when you see it in comparison with the slump back home. So I think it might be a good idea to shift my business here. After getting back in the US, it took me about 2 months to convince my wife to accept the idea. So we moved here in 2011 with Arlina along.

H: Cool, so what’s your first impression of Fuzhou?

S: Before I came for the first time for the visit, my brother told me Fuzhou’s very nice, and not much difference than any other American city. But, after my flight landed, I found the difference was so apparent. There were construction projects everywhere. It’s unbelievable for an American to see so many buildings going up everywhere at the same time. The city has been developing rapidly, and city life keeps pacing up. I started to enjoy going to San Fang Qi Xiang and Gushan after being here for a while. The old buildings and history appeal to us. If we have visitors from abroad, we would like to take them to see the ‘old Fuzhou’. But it’s kinda sad that the old scene is disappearing, so is the history behind it. In America, we have laws in protection of old buildings. But in China, they are coming away every year.

Sam and Eli

Sam and Eli

H: What is it that attracts you in Fuzhou the most?

S: We want to live a quality life. Living a quality life costs a lot in the US, so in Beijing or Shanghai. But it’s much easier to do so in Fuzhou. Now we have identified some business opportunities. My wife’s bakeries are very welcomed in Fuzhou. We are enjoying delivering our food and attitude to others.

Sam got a taste for the diversity of food through his father, a well traveled officer in the United States Air Force. This exposure to different foods at such a young age planted a seed in him that has grown into a lifelong love of food. Before coming to China, he was in the wine business, and enjoyed teaching his clients to mix wine. Together with the love of his life, Eli, they would often frequent restaurants for romantic meals or to celebrate festivals and anniversaries. Wine and food had become an integral part of their lives.

After moving to Fuzhou, the couple started to think more about the restaurants that they really liked, but the fare available in Fuzhou didn’t compare. Realizing the opportunity this presented, they began by supplying a variety of foods to western restaurants to sell. They started with a cafe named Vino, then expanded to other coffee shops. Later they joined hands with Allegro, a Lianjiang-based yacht manufacturer, to start a wine bar. Appropriately named Gatsby Bistro, they serve high end western cuisine on a yacht docked on the Min Jiang River. With a solid base, he has now expanded to open a new bistro in M-Lounge, located in the hot new Wu Si Bei area.

To Sam, the fast paced city life in Fuzhou is revealed in the pathetically short amount of time people spend preparing and eating dinner, and he hopes to use his restaurants to change people’s attitudes and relationships with food. He is used to taking his time preparing and relishing the food and drinks served and he hopes to imbue this philosophy into his dishes.

Food is the top necessity of the people.

–Chinese Proverb


Homeland, Issue 98, January 2014

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