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Jack Huang

Episode 109

Aerospace Becomes Restaurant

Jack Huang grew up in the United States with his Chinese parents. When he had to attend college, he chose UCLA, from which he graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

Once he had his degree, he went into the aerospace career until he became a section manager. Leaving California for New York was a decision he made to support his then-wife, though they did eventually end up back in Southern California.

Jack started his career in the food industry by becoming a workers comp manager for Panda Management Company (Panda Inn & Panda Express).

After leaving Panda, Jack started taking over management and ownership of different restaurants in Old Pasadena, most of which are still open and doing well.

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Jack Huang Quotes

  • “I’m Chinese myself, so we picked a wok, and my ex-wife now, she’s Japanese-American. I always like the sushi, so we did a Chinese food and sushi combination; it was wok-and-roll.”
  • “I feel I’m the only one fighting against any kind of increases in hours or rates because I’m more protective of the businesses.”
  • Jack was born in Taiwan, where his father was a colonel
  • They immigrated to America when Jack was 13 in 1971
  • His parents were busy and frustrated Jack kind of took care of himself.
  • Jack went to UCLA for Mechanical Engineering 
  • Jack joined a Frat at UCLA and graduated a year late
  • Jack started work after college and started his 10-year career in aerospace engineering 
  • After joining an Asian networking group, Jack met his ex-wife and moved to New York shortly after being married 
  • After two years, Jack and his wife moved back to California, and Jack started to work for Panda
  • Jack branched out into ownership of several restaurants in Old Town Pasadena 

 

How would you describe yourself?

Jack is the owner of many establishments and businesses in old Pasadena. He also is a self-described restaurateur after working for panda management. He decided to do his own thing.

He was very excited to start his own restaurant on Colorado Boulevard.

Back in the 90s, when Jack went to the Rose Bowl, people would encourage him and continue to give him positive feedback about Old-Town Pasadena.

The whole area of the Old Town was on the verge of being destroyed by modern high-rise towers.

In the early 2000s, Jack started to expand his business. There was a restaurant across the street that was interested in buying. And he took that opportunity to sign the lease at the end of W. Colorado. He took the Italian restaurant that he procured and put it in that spot in W. Colorado.

So when he moved the one restaurant, he put a new restaurant in the old spot. A tapas restaurant.

Jack is really proud to have stayed in the Old Town and to have been part of this area with such a rich history.

After those three restaurants were set, another restaurant approached Jack to ask if he was interested in buying, and Jack said, “Sure.”

Jack has seen Old Town change a lot over the years in its use. It’s become more residential. He recently moved into the area. He moved only a couple of blocks from his restaurants now.

Jack is also part of the meter committee for the Old Town. There was recently an increase in enforcement.

Scott asked, “Is there any chance that the tickers will hit in the last 15 minutes?”

Jack said not really. There’s no way to know where it’s going to happen, it’s random.

The best way to stay ahead is to use the app linked to the meters. You can just feed your parking spot from where you are.
 

Where are you from, Jack?

Jack is a first-generation immigrant. He was born in Taiwan. He came to America in 1971 when he was 13.
 

What was it like to come to America as a 13-year-old?

It was exciting! It was new and kind of scary. Jack and his siblings hardly knew any English. He even felt disconnected from the Chinese people that lived in Chinatown because they spoke Cantonese, and Jack spoke Mandarin.

Jack’s father was actually a Colonel in the army before immigrating. He left when the communists took over. When he got here, he became a waiter at restaurants. He made that sacrifice to give his family a better chance.

As they moved through California, they were always the only Asian Family in the area. So he always kind of felt on the outs.

He did, however, integrate fairly quickly. In a few short years after living in California, went to UCLA.
 

What helped you become successful?

Jack’s parents said his parents were “too busy running the restaurant or fighting.” He had to figure out his life himself because they were too busy for him.

He picked math at UCLA because of the math program. He went to school for Engineering for $700 a year.

He drove his motorcycle to campus because parking was impossible.

Commuting was for him. He tried to get a form, but the waiting list was around 3,000 people.

So he rushed fraternities, and he then became part of the fraternity that accepted him.
 

Have you had to face discrimination?

Jack actually got jumped in Hollywood, California. The kids made him eat sand in the park. However, Jack started taking karate classes after that and learned how to defend himself.
 

What happened after UCLA?

Jack pursued aerospace engineering. He worked on some incredible airplane projects. He worked as an engineer for years and developed these incredible plans.

He worked for T.O.W. and tried to get a secret clearance but wasn’t allowed because of Jack’s citizenship status. He also worked on missiles.

aeruspace-engineer
 

When did you switch from aerospace to an entrepreneur?

Jack actually got a promotion towards the end of his time, and he became a manager.

But Jack realized that his work life could always be in the line. If they got rid of the program, he could lose it all.

He joined an Asian networking group that had a lot of businessmen and professionals. Jack actually met his ex-wife in this networking group.

Jack got married, and after he got married, who was an investment banker, they moved to New York.

He worked in Import Export deals while in New York and after only two years in New York, they came back to California.

Jack went back to Aerospace and thankfully came back easily. He only worked there for a month, though. He joined Panda the was really impressed by their work ethic.

He became manager for workers comp, and Jack learned and went with it.

Jack spent two years with Panda and gained the confidence to move on to make his own thing in Pasadena.
 

Picture of Jack Huang

Jack Huang

Old Town Pasadena 

The Focus Plaza

Huntington Garden