“Meet cutes” don’t get much cuter than the story of restaurant owners Gary and Jessica P. Wu. The two were living in New York when a rainy day (and a little bit of fate) brought them together at the ACE Hotel. We met up with the couple at their new restaurant General Tso’Boy at the Domain Northside to get the full scoop on exactly how it went down at the ACE, what it’s like to run a business with your spouse, and how eating months worth of McDonalds can actually be a very romantic gesture…
photographed by melanie grizzel
First things first: we’re dying to know how the two of you met. Give us your “meet cute”!
Jessica: We met at Stumptown Coffee in the ACE Hotel. He came in from the street side, and I walked in from the hotel side. He accidentally ran into the railing as he entered. I happened to witness his accident and asked him if he was okay. (I was the knight in shining armor, ha!) And like that, we decided to chat over two iced cold brews.
That’s great. Straight out of a romantic comedy. Gary, is that really how it went?
Gary: Mostly accurate. The rail was in an awkward position. She sometimes likes to tell people that I came in all sweaty, but the truth was that it was raining.
What was your first impression of Jessica?
Gary: Beautiful. Gorgeous.
And Jessica, what did you first think of Gary?
Jessica: I thought: What a friendly smile!
Okay, so fast forward four years and now you’re married and own a restaurant together. Tell us a little about General Tso’Boy: how long have you been open? What inspired the restaurant?
Gary: We did our first run at the LIC Food and Flea in Long Island City, NY during the summer of 2014. We opened our first brick and mortar in Austin during June of 2016 at the Domain Northside. The name General Tso’Boy reflects the restaurant in multiple facets: First, we serve American-Chinese food in po’boy-style sandwiches. Second, it gives people an idea of the brand we want to be—fun! Our food is a playful interpretation of food people know.
We love the look of General Tso’Boy (and the menu!) When it came to concepting the food and the overall vibe of the restaurant, who contributed what? Was it a joint effort?
Jessica: This was absolutely a joint effort. We first solidified our concept and started brainstorming a playful name that reflected what we were trying to do. Eventually, we teamed up with a graphic designer to give this concept some life. Three years later, here we are!
Okay, if we can only order one thing off the menu here what should it be?
Gary: I’m always tasting the entire menu, so it’s hard to pick one. These days I’ve been really enjoying our black pepper beef with our chili oil (available upon request). The beef has really deep flavor that’s very satisfying. And people are pretty crazy for our cheeseburger spring rolls. We once had a guy come in and order 8 just for himself.
Jessica: It depends on the day for me… Currently, I’m finding myself eating the honey walnut shrimp grain bowl.
pictured: cheeseburger spring rolls from general tso’boy
What did each of you do before opening the restaurant?
Gary: Jess was most recently the Marketing Director for the fast casual seafood chain Luke’s Lobster. She’s definitely had more direct experience in the food and beverage industry. I was working at an economic consultancy in NYC for 8 years prior to opening the restaurant. During the last year before moving, I did an internship with Chef Doron Wong who has become a great friend and mentor.
Jessica, tell us about these 5 items that represent your relationship:
Minion – Right around our one year of dating, I mentioned McDonald’s was giving out minions with happy meals. I love the little guys because they’re so carefree and happy all the time. On our anniversary, Gary gave me all of them. He ate happy meals for two weeks to collect them before he realized he could just buy the little guys!
Silk pillow case – we got this in Chiang Mai on our honeymoon. Thailand is very well known for silks. Whenever we travel, we try to find some kind of home furnishing to remind us of our trips.
Wood carving – we got this in St. Lucia for our engagement moon! In the first few weeks that we met, Gary actually left for a backpacking trip in China for 3 weeks. We stayed in touch every day through email, and I mentioned Hotel Chocolat, a hotel in St. Lucia that grows its own cacao beans to make chocolate. He remembered, and 2 years later we stayed in one of the huts and ate wonderful dishes all made with some cacao component.
Wedding photo – Continuing our relationship with new meaning and a partner for life.
Curry packet –We spend most of our trips searching for the best things to eat including local snacks and global brands that have created snacks with local flavor, like Lay’s potato chips makes great Satay Chicken and Caçik flavored chips.
Wait — so Gary, how many Happy Meals did you have to eat to get Jessica all of the minions?
Gary: Not sure I remember the exact number, but it was a good amount before I realized I didn’t need to. I finally figured out I could just by them individually at McDonald’s.
What do you admire most about Jessica?
Gary: How caring she is.
And Jessica, what do you admire most about Gary?
Jessica: His dedication. He never stops working for our business, really more like our baby. He’s not only constantly working in the restaurant, he’s also thinking of new menu items, tweaking recipes, etc.
What’s your favorite way to spend time together?
Gary: Exploring other cultures through food.
Jessica: We eat! We’re always trying something new or revisiting an old favorite. We can get pretty nerdy talking about the food we’re eating—how it tastes, how it’s executed, etc.
pictured: homemade soft serve ice cream from general tso’boy
What’s the hardest thing about running a restaurant together?
Jessica: Sometimes when we leave the restaurant after 12 hours a day, we still want to talk about work. It’s hard to detox from it all. But, doing small things together like late night grocery runs has been a good way for us to focus on something else.
Gary: Sometimes I feel that I take advantage of the fact that my business partner is also my wife and I can become too demanding.
And the thing you disagree about the most?
Jessica: How to cook, but only at home. It seems silly that we own a restaurant together, but we don’t cook together at home. Gary’s very technical and methodical with his cooking. Cooking is about taste and feeling for me, so I avoid measuring and following recipes.
What’s the best relationship advice you’ve ever been given?
Gary: Trust. There is not a relationship if there is no trust.
Jessica: Now that you’re married, remember why you chose this path in the most trying moments.
How do you keep the romance alive in your relationship?
Jessica: Being silly is the best. We’re both pretty calm on the exterior, but I think we are so comfortable with each other that it’s easy to be playful when it’s you and your best friend.
Gary: No matter how tired we feel we always find time to joke around with each other.
You two really seem to have it all. Any advice out there for single friends still looking for “the one”?
Jessica: Be honest. I’m a firm believer in being direct about who you are and what you want. It’s efficient and prevents confusion. Communicate this with whomever you’re dating whether that’s “you’re not interested” or “you’re a vegetarian, so let’s stop going to burger joints.” Don’t expect the other person to read in between the lines. You might end up disappointed.
Gary: Know what you want, and just go for it.
Thanks for sharing your sweet story with us, Gary and Jessica. We’ll see you at General Tso’Boy… just don’t judge us if we order 8 cheeseburger spring rolls.
Follow Gary + Jessica on instagram: @generaltsoboy