It was lunch time and Han Dynasty was just beginning to swell. I was sitting with general manager Mark Kopple when he politely paused our conversation to greet hungry patrons. “One second,” he said while excusing himself.
He seated guests, retrieved plates from the kitchen, brought each table hot tea, and made small talk. All of it was done so calmly and gracefully, though there was a lot happening at once.
Minutes later, he found enough wiggle room to talk to me, a little ol’ food blogger, about his culinary world.
“I’ve been a chef and manager for the past 31 years,” he said. “I’ve worked at The Chart House on Penn’s Landing, and a couple of restaurants in the 80’s that have since closed.” He went on to cite various yacht clubs and privately and corporately owned restaurants as apart of his resume.
With such an extensive background, I was curious to know what brought him to Han Dynasty’s Cherry Hill location.
He said very simply, “I submitted my resume and received a phone call from the company.” I assumed there’d be a long triumphant tale of how he always dreamed of working for an authentic Szechuan restaurant. Nope. He fed me no fluff, and was very forthright about his dedication to Han Chiang, creator and owner of Han Dynasty, and his restaurant.
“I’ve been with this company for two years and I love my job, clientele and staff.” He smiled as he continued. “I’m so happy at this point in my life. After years of food service, I still have the desire and the drive.”
I watched as dish after steamy dish was hastened from the kitchen. The smell of peppers, spice and protein inspired my next question–what is the most popular dish at this location?
He replied, “Probably the garlic sauce chicken, which seems to be a safe bet for those who haven’t experienced authentic Chinese. It’s a little security blanket, so to speak. It does happen to have a fantastic flavor [too].”
As the restaurant died down for a moment, we spoke a little more about Kopple’s culinary life, visions, and experiences.
He stated with much hubris,”Han is going to take over and create his own dynasty, as our name states. He has brought the best Chinese food to the South Jersey area.”
But the franchise doesn’t plan to end its influence there.
“We’re opening another restaurant in New York, and it’ll be in Brooklyn. Then, [Han] is looking to open more stores in the Boston and Washington D.C. area.”
Kopple then stood to acknowledge even more guests. A place that had hosted just a few people 20 minutes earlier, now tripled in occupancy.
I began gathering my belongings, planning to leave before I’d become a burden with my gazillion questions. I was stopped in my tracks by a fried chicken dish, riddled with peppercorns, dried chiles, onions and green peppers. “For you,” Kopple said, placing the dish in front of me.
Without hesitation, I filled up my tea cup and began feasting.
I was now a guest entranced by Kopple’s infectious personality and professionalism. With service just as memorable as the food, there’s no doubt that Han Dynasty will indeed take over–and rightfully so.