A podcast, gala dinners, boxes full of pastries: Over the past few years, Los Angeles-based Arnold Byun has developed some delicious ways to promote Asian-American chefs and restaurateurs via his community organization With Warm Welcome.
With Warm Welcome began as a passion project. “It started in October 2019, born out of my passion and desire to connect more with hospitality professionals, specifically Asian-American restaurant owners and chefs — I’m Korean-American,” said Byun, who has a background in hospitality. “It started with the podcast, interviewing amazing Asian-American restaurateurs. No one was really covering them at the time, so I made it my mission to highlight them.”
Eventually, With Warm Welcome, which Byun started in New York City, expanded to include other projects: Prix Fixe For Youth, a multi-course gala dinner benefiting NYC nonprofit organization Apex for Youth, and Coffee Cha Club, a discovery box featuring Asian-owned coffee and tea brands. Currently, Byun is focused on the Bakers Box project.
“With Bakers Box, you can taste products from 18 different Asian bakers in one sitting,” he explained. Each curated box showcases treats from emerging and established Asian-American pastry chefs. The first box was offered in New York City in March 2021, and the second in Los Angeles.
“I thought that would be it,” Byun said. “However, the response was amazing! So many Asian people in different places of the country were telling me to do it in their cities, and I felt like I could.”
To date, Bakers Box has popped up in over a dozen cities, including Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Houston, Atlanta and Denver. Upcoming stops include Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Toronto, Vancouver and Honolulu.
In each city, they fulfill 100 orders. “It’s crazy when you think about it. When I go to a city, I haven’t met anyone in person or seen the space [where orders are assembled and picked up]. It’s planned virtually and in good faith,” said Byun. “Bakers Box brings together a lot of strangers, and we come out of it as good friends.”
In addition to promoting Asian-American businesses, Bakers Box also supports local nonprofits. The company always donates 10% of proceeds to an AAPI nonprofit in that city and has, so far, raised well over $10,000.
Byun’s future projects include a Bakers Box book that will celebrate the bakers and recipes that have been part of the project. He also hopes to relaunch the With Warm Welcome podcast, expanding the focus beyond restaurants to include Asian-Americans entrepreneurs in the consumer packaged goods space. As the pandemic wanes, he would like to bring back benefit dinners.
“I really enjoy the work I do,” he said. “Bakers Box has grown beyond my wildest dreams. It’s a fun way to travel, to see what other cities have to offer and to connect with the Asian-American communities there.”
NEXT ON THE DISH