Austin Eye View: C.K. Chin
Founder of Chintertainment, Inc Co-Founder of Swift’s Attic & Wu Chow Partner of Native Hostels & Hope Outdoor Gallery
Styled by Carrie Crowe
Photo Shoot at League of Rebels
Spend any amount of time in Austin, and you’re bound to meet C.K. Chin. This man-about-town, known for his warm smile and (pre-pandemic) teddy bear hugs, entered the service industry 23 years ago, starting off bartending and quickly moving up the ranks to managing bars and restaurants. He’s most known for his roles as an operations partner in Swift’s Attic and Wu Chow, but he has most recently been focusing on some exciting new projects, including a speakeasy sushi bar opening on the east side this fall, and the new HOPE Outdoor Gallery. The venue and event space, set to open at the start of 2022, will feature an art gallery, full bar and cafe, picnic area, commissary kitchen, food trailer program and marketplace with local vendors. After being a part of some major disaster relief efforts this year, C.K. couldn’t feel more prepared to bring this charity-focused arts oasis to our community.
How would you say the hospitality industry has changed in the past year?
“The root I don’t think has changed. The best of us in the industry found ways to continue to feed people, to take care of people, to serve the community. When we were told that we would be shutting down and we had to figure out what to do with thousands of dollars of product that would be going bad, it made me so proud to see our community figure out how to use that to feed people who had just lost their jobs or who were ill. Sure, the obvious answer lies in the method as to how we provide our service, but the truth is, if you look around, the purest form of our industry is and always will be there.”
What are your favorite and least favorite food and drink trends right now?
“I can’t say that I really enjoyed the pivot to take-out. I feel that a restaurant is more than just a dish or a recipe, but rather a whole experience. I do love the move toward a combined meal effort that helped families get cooking in their own homes — part restaurant prepared and part homemade. Not sure if this was a trend as much as it was out of necessity, but I loved seeing the creativity in the DIY “restaurant in your home” hybrid concept. The to-go cocktails have also been a really cool development that I never thought I would see. The nerd in me does kind of like seeing QR codes everywhere though. I had a QR code on my business card 10 years ago and people looked at me like I was crazy.”
How would you describe your personal style on a day-to-day basis?
“Oh man, the primary style carry-over from quarantine has been the shift over to comfort. Part of me misses putting on a clean and pressed suit every evening for service. There was something about straightening my tie or putting on a cufflink that felt like I was donning a cape and cowl, but nowadays, I’m definitely more function over form. I do own about 40 pairs of various colored Chucks though.”
How would you describe Austin style to someone from out of town?
“I think you can easily fall victim to pigeonholing Austin style into an existing aesthetic, but I think over the last two decades of me being here, I can safely say we are at a desert oasis level of variety when it comes to style here. With so many transplants moving into Austin every day, I think it might be easier to use someone’s style to describe where they were before they got here than vice versa.”
Describe your perfect Austin day — what would you eat, drink, do and see?
“Start off with some breakfast tacos (from Valentina’s, or maybe Veracruz or El Primo), then go take a walk around Town Lake with my lady and her son and Biscuit, our pup. Ideally, my perfect Austin day would be one of our absolutely gorgeous spring days or a perfectly cool and crisp day in the fall. Lunch would be a bowl of ramen from Ramen Tatsu-ya. I would then make time for a nap. If the day is as perfect as I am imagining it to be, this would most definitely be on a hammock. Dinner would be a chimaera of a meal with some great friends — a square of Cadillac pizza from Via 313, a bone marrow taco from Comedor, some Bob Armstrong Dip from Matt’s, some XLB from Wu Chow, Wagyu nigiri from Uchiko and maybe some dueling biscuits from Fixe and Olamaie. Post-dinner entertainment would be a show at Auditorium Shores. I would conclude my day as it started, with tacos. Some barbacoa and al pastor from La Mexicana would put a fantastic exclamation mark on my day.”