Chenghui Zheng had a dream. He wanted to open a restaurant that would fill a void in the vibrant Pioneer Valley restaurant scene. With the help of Common Capital and many months of hard work, he opened Oriental Flavor in downtown Amherst. Oriental Flavor offers healthy, high quality Chinese food to fill a need for authentic and traditional Chinese dining options, a need Chenghui hears during conversations within the local Chinese community. Travelers, international students and Chinese families struggle to find traditionally prepared dishes and Chinese specialties like Dim Sum or Chinese style breakfast outside New York’s Chinatown or the sprawling suburbs of San Francisco and LA, let alone here in Western Massachusetts. After years of working for a local Chinese restaurant with a more Americanized menu, Zheng began plans for his own restaurant, a business dedicated to providing customers with authentic meals rooted in the rich culinary heritage that makes Chinese food so appealing.
Chenghui Zheng has years of experience serving locals at Amherst Chinese Food restaurant, where he developed his restaurant skills as a busboy, waiter, cashier and assistant manager. He now emphasizes the importance of building a strong and enthusiastic workforce dedicated to sharing fantastic and unique foods with local people. He will be joined by his good friend Feng Pan who recently received his MBA from the Isenberg School of Management at UMASS Amherst and will serve as restaurant manager. Oriental Flavor’s dishes will incorporate ingredients, flavors and techniques native to both northern and southern China, all designed and prepared under the direction of head chef Qu Za. Also a former employee of Amherst Chinese Food (serving as head chef), Qu received a degree in Chinese Cuisine from the Guangzhou Culinary School in the Guangdong Province of China. Since 2004 Qu has worked for UMASS Dining, creating fantastic Chinese soups and pastries for busy students. He and Chenghui are enthusiastic to serve classic, super fresh meals prepared from scratch every day.
In order to bring his business plans into action and share that fantastic food with the Amherst community, Chenghui needed to make some serious investments. Financing was needed to prepare their South Pleasant Street location for business, a process that included the installation and outfitting of a brand new commercial kitchen complete with commercial refrigerators, giant woks and steamers, an industrial soybean processor and all new stoves. Renovations to the space required extensive plumbing and electrical work, refinishing old windows and doors as well as retrofitting the front entrance to accommodate for handicap access. Common Capital provided Chenghui with the financing needed to make these renovations and launch a comprehensive marketing campaign leading up to the restaurant’s opening in August 2013. As a result of Common Capital’s support and collaboration, Oriental Flavor has created a sunny, inviting dining area and a powerhouse kitchen poised to provide new customers with a unique downtown Amherst dining experience.
Chenghui plans to roll out a stellar menu that stays true to Chinese culinary traditions, filled with uniquely crafted fresh ingredients and spices noted for their medicinal properties, including goji berry, codonopsis, wolfberry and ginseng. College students and locals alike will be delighted by Oriental Flavor’s all day Chinese Breakfast, a unique meal comprised of a variety of small dishes called Xiao Chi (小吃 Chinese for “small eats”) including steamed buns, pan fried pancakes and dumplings, Chinese doughnuts, sesame seed cakes, hot pot soups, rice porridge and homemade soybean milk. Another specialty is the Stew Pot, which is comprised of vegetables and/or meats prepared in a small steam pot to maximize flavor and retain the full nutritional value of the ingredients. Oriental Flavor will also serve affordably priced Dim Sum, lunch and dinner at their beautifully remodeled 25 South Pleasant Street location with full table service, as well as offer takeout and delivery options.