While Amoy Kong-Brown was busy helping small businesses and contractors in the city get their start, she was dreaming up her own small business. And on Wednesday, she officially cut the ribbon on a restaurant that bears her name.
Kong-Brown, with the help of her husband Phil Brown, a jazz musician and retired New Haven Parking Authority manager, officially opened Amoy’s, a restaurant that brings a gumbo of Cajun, Creole and American cuisine to the Ninth Square on Orange Street.
“It has been a long time coming,” Kong-Brown said. “It is a dream that has taken me over four or five years. We love feeding people and making them feel happy and welcome.”
The dream started for Kong-Brown with a trip to Lousiana, specifically a visit to New Orleans, where Phil is from, and Baton Rouge, where he went to the historically black Southern University, and learning to cook Cajun and Creole favorites like jambalaya, crawfish ètouffée, and seafood gumbo.
Phil said his family saw how much his wife enjoyed cooking the dishes that he grew up eating, and they took her under their wings. She developed a knack for cooking the dishes of his family and was soon talking about bringing those dishes to the Elm City.
Kong-Brown is a familiar face at City Hall. She worked for the Livable City Initiative during her first tour of about five years and currently is an administrative assistant in the city’s Economic Development Office working with the small contractor development program. She also has worked with the city’s Small Business Services Center.
When she wasn’t working to help other small businesses get off the ground, she was making her way through one of the precursors to the city’s Small Business Academy that the city offered in collaboration with the Women’s Business Development Council. She also was getting her culinary certificate from Gateway Community College.
“I’m excited and nervous, and truly blessed,” she said. “Without God, you can’t do anything and God has been the main focus in our lives. We are grateful to all the great people who have worked with me through the business classes with the New Haven Small Business, going to culinary school at Gateway. It’s been a long life dream and it is finally coming to fruition.”
Attendees to the ribbon cutting got to sample a feast of catfish nuggets, two-styles of chicken wings, and skewers of grilled shrimp and veggies. Several of them stayed to order the gumbo and other New Orleans-style dishes.
Mayor Toni Harp said Amoy’s adds to the city’s legacy as a destination for foodies.
“This opening underscores what people all over the region already know,” Harp said, “that for a great meal with fresh ingredients, representing cultures from around the world, you simply must come to New Haven.”
Tony Rescigno, president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, said the city is fortunate to have a thriving restaurant scene that has become a destination. He noted that small businesses like Amoy’s provide jobs.
Win Davis, director of Town Green Special Services District, welcomed the Browns to the historic Ninth Square with a plaque. He noted that Amoy’s is the 33rd restaurant to open in the neighborhood.
Phill Brown said that Amoy’s took possession of its 40 Orange St. location in January, but opened its doors in the latter part of February. In addition to lunch and dinner service, the 47-seat restaurant has played host to small social events including a happy hour last week that was standing room, which gets more people in the door.
Phil said his wife has been supporting his music career and he was happy to support her dreams of owning a small restaurant even if it is a lot of work.
“It takes team work,” he said.