We had the good fortune of connecting with Edison Parker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Edison, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
I would say one of the most important lesson I’ve learned thus far in building my business is to trust my own process. It’s far too easy to compare yourself to others and how their business or career is panning out, and everybody’s specific process is as uniquely individual as they are. We all have different goals, ambitions, and measures of success, and when you can allow your own personality to shine through your process, you and your bussiness/career become something entirely unique. It’s easy to look at what someone else has or what they do and say “I want that”, and I feel in our society its only natural to want the success that we see others have. But to really look deep inside yourself and ask what success means to you requires a huge amount of courage. To come to terms with the fact that your life is truly your own and steps you take to achieve success, in business or a career especially, is no easy task.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When I was growing up, I wanted to join the Marine Corp. Perhaps I wanted to test my mettle, or perhaps I found the structure and camaraderie involved to be highly appealing? I cannot fully explain it, but I found myself almost compelled to be a part of it. As I grew up and began to explore new hobbies and friend groups, I felt less drawn to a military profession, and by the time I graduated high school in 2007, the military had lost its appeal entirely. So I moved from Seattle, off to attend the school of arts and sciences at CU Boulder, having zero idea of what I wanted to study. My freshman year went well. My new friendships blossomed, my grades were up, I found all the intro classes I was taking to be quite intriguing, but the world of academia was leaving me unfulfilled. I wanted to work, I felt unsettled by not having a job. So in 2008, having some previous kitchen experience, and an alluring curiosity for Japanese culuture, I applied to a job posting for an apprentice sushi chef at Hapa Sushi. I got the job just before school let out for the summer, I would not be going home for the summer like the rest of my friends. This would change the trajectory of my life forever. Now don’t get me wrong, there was certainly a system of training that I went through, but in a way, I was just tossed into the fire. I had never experienced anything like this before; fast paced, highly demanding, and if you made a mistake, you heard about it from EVERYBODY. One of my more experienced co-workers said one day: “The best advice I can give you is… this is a sink or swim environment. You’ll either have what it takes, or you won’t make it.” I was terrified. But rather than give up, I held on, and with time I got better. And it felt good. It was a grueling environment, but that feeling of accomplishment when you make it through the day in one piece was worth it. The rush of adrenaline, the sense of structure and camaraderie I had been searching for all my life, I found it, and I was totally hooked. I was still bouncing around at CU with no declared major. My grades were getting worse all the time, but I felt fulfilled in the service industry. Around this time, one of my colleagues recommeded ‘Kitchen Confidential’ by Anthony Bourdain. My fate would be sealed. I decided to take some time off from CU and attend a culinary program at the Culinary School of the Rockies. I never did make it back to CU. Over the years I did LONG stints at local restaurants that were doing good things and that I felt drawn to: Hapa, The Kitchen Upstairs, Rosalee’s Pizzeria after moving to Longmont. I had worked my way from having almost no experience in the kitchen world, to running some of these kitchens. When I was at Hapa, I met a lady who, 11 years later, I would have the pleasure of marrying. In about 2013, I had the idea of opening a food truck. I felt this entrepreneurial spirit growing inside me, and I thought I’d like to investigate that. I read books and articles and spoke with food truck owners and studied stacks on stacks of material about how the process goes, and I made very little progess. Aside from their specialized menus, all these food trucks businesses seemed about the same, why was it so difficult for me to make the next move? I struggled with my concept for years. What did I want to serve? (Something with Asian influence of course!) What kind of truck did I want? (Something small and maneuverable I figured would be best.) I decided to just go for it; keep it small, keep it simple. I had currrently been involved in yet another love affair with dumplings, which I had been making off and on for myself and my friends since before I even began a career in the service industry. After my Mom got me a hand crank pasta roller for Christmas one year, I began making my own wrappers too. My friends and family agreed, dumplings would be my specialty. As for my name, I came across a term in Japanese that meant something like old and new; innovative….Shinkyu-No. I asked a colleague who was from Korea, but spoke fluent Japanese if this would be appropriate. He confirmed it would be and I registered Shinkyu-No LLC with the Colorado Sectretary of State. To this day I cannot find where I came across this term, nor does Shinkyu-No seem to have the specific reference I was told. Perhaps I dreamt it? I didn’t have many funds, and I didn’t want an outside investor to be lending me money and thus becoming my boss. At the time I was talking with the Small Business Discovery Center about securing a loan. I figured I could get something started with about 15-20 thousand dollars. They said if I was to secure a loan that size, I’d have to leverage our newly purchased home; which I figured best to avoid, lest my future wife smother me with a pillow in my sleep. Within the next couple of days, completely out of the blue, a close family member asked if I could put 20 thousand dollars to good use. It was a sign! Coincidence perhaps, but I felt this was the work of pure manifestation. I accepted the loan, and I drew up plans for a small custom food cart (about the size of a hotdog cart) with everything I would need and nothing more. I jumped through all the hoops of licensing and approval from the authorities, I had my cart custom built by a local welder, I bought all the tools and things I thought I would need (about a third of which I did not end up needing). In retrospect, I could’ve been much more concise with my spending, but at the time, I was just figuring it out. I can read and study the “proper” way to do something for endless amounts of time, but I noticed that I found much more satisfaction in just moving forward and figuring out what works for me as I go. I spent nearly all the money getting my project off the ground, and on June 27th 2018, I had a small group of friends and family over for my soft opening. Since then, I have teamed up with local breweries and distilleries to bring delicious, handmade dumplings to my commuity. My process and operation have become even more concise with each passing year. After covid struck last year and shut everything down, all businesses were hit incredibly hard. But I was small, and I had maneuverability. My friends suggested the idea of delivering my dumplings frozen to people’s doors. I called the County health inspector to make sure I was licensed to do this and the next week, I was delivering frozen handmade dumplings to all my fans at home. This kept me afloat through 2020 and I am forever grateful to all my friends, family, and patrons who supported Shinkyu-No. Now that businesses have opened again, I still operate with the cart about once or twice a week, but mostly I am working to promote and build the delivery aspect of Shinkyu-No. We are still a small operation, and still growing. It seems that every month just a little more traction is gained as the word gets out. I feel incredibly blessed to have this oppotunity in my life. I must admit that success has certainly not come as quickly as I had imagined it, but that’s ok. Everybody’s process is different. Everybody’s level of success is different. Being able to distinguish what is and what is not going to satify your soul is a very conscious, and life long journey. As I’ve grown, I may have lost my taste for the grueling reality of a restaurant. The fast-paced, adrenaline fueled, pirate ship, rockstar style of existence has lost its appeal. But in that messy, stressful, glorious, and regarded by some as not a “real” profession, I found myself. I found something I really excel at. I found confidence and a sense of self-worth, friendships more enduring than stone, and I even found my darling wife too. I owe everything I have to the professional food world. And to all those who have given me a chance, taught me, inspired me, supported me, pushed me, and never stopped believing in me, here’s to you.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Good question! There’s so many amazing things and places to experience in Denver. If I’m being honest, I try not to have the days too planned out. I find this leads to disappointment. In my experience, I’ve found loose plans are the way to go and see where the day carries you. However, day one would probably consist of: A quick breakfast burrito at one of the many delicious little mexican spots, followed by a little walk through the city to see if anything in particular catches the eye of my guest, Big Buck Hunter at either The Retro Room or 1UP Arcade Bar, then bar hopping around, maybe to some breweries or to some local pubs we come across. I’ve always enjoyed a visit to True Brewing. Super tasty beers and a charming metal atmosphere. Early dinner would depend on how we’re feeling. Uncle in the highlands for some ramen might hit the spot, followed by a walk to help digest and see if we can spot anything fun happening like live music. Day two: Depending on just how much we had to drink, maybe take it easy. Breakfast at The Universal has always been a delicious way to help a hangover. Some sunshine and a walk through the park. The Botanical Garden would be my vote! The Aquarium may also be a nice alternative. Lunch may require something a little lighter like a Poke bowl from Ohana Island Kitchen or Poke House. Again see if there’s some live music to see. If not, see where the wind carries us. Maybe Crown of India for dinner. Day three: Rollercoasters! I love rollercoasters and I don’t enjoy them nearly enough. Elitch Gardens all day! Next four: Breakfast at Sassafras. Maybe a Rockies game to follow if it’s the rihgt time of year. I’m not a huge sports fan myself, but Coor’s Field is a fun spot. Maybe dinner at Mizu Izakaya, or something a little more down to earth like Chicken Rebel if we’re too toasty from spending the day at Coor’s Field. Day five: Take it easy. Maybe something fun to do that doesn’t cost much. I’d see if my friend can borrow a bike from another friend and we could pack a picnic and some beers and get lost on the bike trials around the area. Fortune Wok to Table for dinner. Day six: If funds allow, this could be a nice day to be fancy. Brunch at Linger, see if there’s something cool at the Denver Art Museum, get dressed up and see if there’s a performance at the Center for Performing Arts, or the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. I may have missed a couple things, but to me this sounds like a well balanced week of Denver activites. Of course this would be more of an ideal situation. With the current covid regulations, all of this may not be as feasible or as enjoyable.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Oh man! Where do I begin? There are many people and events that have made a positive impression on me and my journey. From the professional culinary world, I’d like to thank the restaurants that gave me a chance and helped me to learn and grow: Hapa Sushi for training me to be a sushi chef when I had very little prior experience in a professional kitchen, The Kitchen Upstairs for taking me on and being so patient as I learned my way around a proper kitchen line, and Rosalee’s Pizzeria for giving me the chance to be a part of and to help grow a newer (at the time) restaurant. I’d like to thank the people in this field who believed in me enough to help me grow and teach me new skills, and those who have worked by me, had my back, and been a huge source of support in the grueling world that is the service industry. And I certainly would not be where I am today without the love and support of my friends and family. I have been incredibly blessed with amazing people in my life who have believed in me every step of the way, and who have helped to gently push me when those steps seem too daunting.