Chef John Wong chose to bring his mastery in culinary arts to Globe, Arizona, where crossroads welcome people from all over the state. By introducing eclectic cuisine, Wong adds a new dimension to a city built on pride.
A third-generation Chinese Canadian, Wong was born in Ontario, Canada. While growing up on a potato farm there, he learned early the value of fresh, local foods. What’s more, his parents had restaurants, so cooking was a part of his life at a young age. After studying math in college, General Electric (G.E.) hired him to do mathematical modeling, predictions, and forecasting in Phoenix, Arizona. He enjoyed his career with G.E. and graciously shares how they paid for his Green Card and MBA at Arizona State University. Although there are some parallels between math and food, i.e., a meticulous mind, ultimately, he was drawn back to food. “Now I’m more hands-on and social, and there is a human factor, whereas before, my best friend was a computer screen,” reflects Wong.
After leaving G.E., Wong took about 18 months to travel the world, refining his cooking skills and immersing himself in different cultures. He honed his craft in numerous countries, including Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Spain, and Portugal. In time, he opened his first restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, and his second in Mesa, Arizona, where he met his wife. At the Mesa location, he initiated food and wine pairings and engaged in “Chef-Off” competitions with other restaurants in the valley. Most times, Wong was the winner.
Eventually, with rising costs in the valley, Wong and his wife, Deborah Yerkovich, decided to move to Globe to raise their family. Deborah is a native of Globe, so this adventure made perfect sense. A conscientious businessperson, Wong didn’t immediately rush into his next endeavor. Instead, he took his time observing the historic downtown and pondered all it could become. A restaurant downtown became his mission through channeling his travels and experience with food. Although downtown dining was sparse, the sense of community in Globe was solid and lively. Furthermore, many people drive through Globe from places like Tucson, Phoenix, Show Low, and Pinetop, making it the perfect place to stop for a bite.
His first concept was Bloom Restaurant, an Asian concept, now open for five years. The menu consists of Asian Fusion featuring food from all over the continent inspired by home cooks and distinguished chefs. Moreover, Wong carefully selects his ingredients and makes his sauces to accentuate the differences between each country. “I am amazed you can find some of these ingredients in Arizona. We are well covered in getting product here,” he says. Freshness comes to life in Bloom’s dishes, like the seafood curry from Malaysia and the ancient special fried rice from China. And the response to sushi in this small, rural town has been overwhelmingly positive. The Kamikaze Roll, on Bloom’s signature rolls menu, is a must-try.
While in Europe, Wong developed a love for woodfire cooking and wanted to create some “synergy pizza.” BRAVO Americano Moderno, Wong’s second concept in downtown Globe, embraces European and Asian classics. Open for three years, it sits directly next to Bloom on the same side of Broad Street. One of their fantastic pizzas is the Arugula, Arugula, Arugula, with garlic oil, fresh salami, fresh mozzarella, red onion, and sun-dried tomatoes topped with arugula and roasted balsamic vinegar glaze. The dough to make the pizzas undergo a 24-hour fermentation. “The dough we make today is the dough we use tomorrow. This allows the yeast to grow and convert alcohol to sugars, so it has more character and has a chance to release gas, making it lighter and better for you,” he explains.
In addition, non-pizza menu items at BRAVO, like the Buttery Garlic Lobster Ravioli, are also delicious. “We are all still learning to expand the menu and grow, like having more chef’s specials and thinking out of the box.” Even further, the restaurant is not just remarkable because of the food; it’s a familiar gathering place. For instance, many patrons greet each other by name, and you might even find the chief of police sitting at the next table. Additionally, the patio has plenty of seating for groups, including one long community table that is particularly adored by Wong. “I like seeing people sitting together and creating conversations; I think that’s interesting.”
Furthermore, the tables and chairs, made from the wood of an old bowling alley, are conversation pieces. When BRAVO was under construction, Wong’s friend, who used to own a bowling alley in Globe, donated all the wood for many benches and tables in the restaurant. The wood originally came from Boston and was shipped to Japan, making its journey to Globe for the bowling alley. Like Wong, the wood has a story, and through travel, it brought a beguiling spirit for all to enjoy in his restaurant.
Another thing that Wong would love to incorporate into both Bloom and BRAVO is a wine experience, and he is hopeful his guests will be interested. “I always had wine pairings at my restaurant in Mesa, which I want to expose here. Most places in Globe don’t have wine”. He currently has about ten reds and ten whites between the two restaurants. BRAVO has more European options like Chiantis and Cabernet Francs, whereas Bloom focuses on lighter, crisp, fresh whites. However, as people expand their palates, he wants to expand the list. “I would love to see people ordering flights of sake and wine, where we could change it weekly,” he exclaimed.
Wong has the utmost respect and gratitude toward the community of Globe and those who visit. He expressed there is no comparison to having a restaurant in the valley and, that in Mesa, he felt like just another restaurant. “Globe has a better following and community that helps a small restaurant.” The support for downtown businesses is evident as the streets are busy, and the parking spots are often occupied, even during the weekdays.
The camaraderie among business owners in town is something Wong values as well. He enjoys building relationships with a common goal of growing and enriching the city. “You have Tracy across the street, who owns The Huddle, who always supports us and tells us what’s happening with events, as does Tanner, owner of Western Repro, and Waggin’ Vineyard & Estate is nearby, which also brings synergy and exposure.” Moreover, many stores and restaurants in Globe have an event calendar or signs posted at their establishments to bring awareness to the happenings. He is also grateful to the Chamber of Commerce for being on top of things and hosting new events like home tours and spring flings that bring traffic to town.
The culinary scene Wong creates is exciting, and more is to come. He has plans for a third restaurant and is slowly renovating that spot, which is also downtown. This next concept will be a worldwide tapas lounge with items like Japanese street food.
Although ambitious about developing downtown, Wong cherishes the historic old town feel that will always remain. And, having traveled the globe, he is thrilled to be right where he is, making connections through one’s palate. “The people in Globe want to be here; I want to be here.”
Darla Hoffmann is a wine and travel journalist, Certified Sommelier, Certified Specialist of Wine, and owner of About Wine, a wine education and marketing company. She currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona.