Steven Chen moved to New York from China when he was 18 years old and has spent the last three decades working in hospitality. With each of his restaurant concepts— which he has launched with business partner K Dong—he pairs his passions for interior design and food to create unique experiences. Chen has also launched a successful catering business and is currently working on his fourth restaurant concept, new wholesale deals, and opening two new locations for his existing brands.

What inspired you to become a chef?

Where I am from, family and food are the heart of the community. I knew I wanted to become a chef once I moved to the United States and started working in the hospitality industry. I moved to New York in my early 20s and started working with my family and friends at Asian res- taurants. It’s an extremely rewarding industry. I love being able to provide our customers with top-quality food and beautiful moments to share with family and friends. We put in long hours and work in a fast-paced environment but I’m really passionate and motivated about what we do.

When was the first time you felt innovative in your career?

As a young adult I was involved in building and designing creative spaces. The first time I felt innovative as a chef was when I opened our first restaurant, Kumo Sushi Lounge in Scarsdale, NY. We opened about eight years ago and I was able to mix my passion for quality food and modern archi- tectural design. During the first year of business, we received local accolades for being the best new restaurant in West- chester County. The space is still a great addition to the local restaurant scene.

With so much variety in cuisine today, how does a chef remain innovative?

I live and breathe the food and beverage industry. When I’m not at one of my restaurants I am working with top purveyors, vendors and markets through our seafood distribution company. I enjoy connecting with the farmers and fishermen who are as passionate as I am about the ingredients we use in each dish. I also enjoy being out with my family and friends at other restaurants enjoying a variety of cuisines. We love to travel, explore, collaborate and take note of details that stand out to us. My vision, and our team’s vision, is to always innovate in everything we do.

When you want to indulge, what is your favorite dish/cocktail—whether at home or out?

When I want to indulge it’s at home with my family—my wife, Ann, and our 8-year- old son—making comfort food like dim sum or having family and friends over for a barbecue. One of the signature dishes at Hinoki was inspired by our family barbecue: we use a prime ribeye steak with Japanese wafu sauce.

When you are stuck for ideas, how do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in talking with my team and others in the food/beverage and hospitality industry. My partner K Dong is very involved with collaborations. He spends a lot of time collecting feedback from customers and we both maintain great relationships with other restaurant owners and chefs. Inspiration is really all around us. We believe in community over competition and love to see how the indus- try is always evolving around us.

When we talk about innovation, we think food right away, but there are many ways to innovate. How have you pushed the envelope as an entrepreneur?

I try to be innovative with the interiors of each restaurant. Kumo, Miku and Hinoki all have a distinct ambiance that is individual and unique. I like to study design trends and incorporate modern details into our restaurants. My partner and I don’t use outside interior designers, we do it ourselves. I also like to collaborate with other top chefs and restaurants that are staying ahead of the trends. We’ve partnered with top restaurants in Connecticut and soon we’ll launch a new collaboration with Hinoki/Blu on the Hudson in Weehawken, NJ.