Rising Star Restaurateur Vivian Ku of Joy - Biography

Los Angeles, CA

May 2021

Vivian Ku’s family history is steeped in the food industry. In 1949, during the Chinese Civil War, her maternal grandparents fled from China to Taiwan, where they began a noodle business. Taiwanese cuisine remained a part of their lives after they moved to California. Growing up in Bakersfield, she connected with food through her family’s vegetable farm and occasional visits to Taipei.

While studying economics at Harvard, her interest in restaurants motivated her to run the campus grill. She also trained at the Culinary Institute of America after college. Following an externship at Chez Panisse, she spent two years learning hospitality with the Hillstone Restaurant Group. A 2013 trip to Taiwan to master local recipes paved the way for her independent ventures.

Ku opened her fast-casual restaurant, called Pine & Crane as an homage to her grandfather’s noodle company of the same name, in 2014. She followed it with Joy, a street-style Taiwanese food concept, four years later. By February 2020, she had plans to launch three more restaurants until the pandemic forced her to step back. Throughout this growth, providing sustainable jobs has remained one of Ku’s top priorities. She advocates for employee benefits, and despite the pandemic, Ku managed to avoid laying off any of her 100-plus employees. In November 2020, she charged ahead with a Taiwanese breakfast pop-up, Today Starts Here. Ku is looking forward to future projects that introduce Taiwanese food to a broader audience, including an altered Pine & crane concept in D.T.L.A. to open later this year.