2021 Chicago Rising Star Chef Chops Wat of Lao Peng You

2021 Chicago Rising Star Chef Chops Wat of Lao Peng You
September 2021

In Eric “Chops” Wat’s childhood home in Aurora, Ill., the family had a monthly tradition of sitting around his grandmother’s kitchen table and folding dumplings. His nai nai, who immigrated from Suzhou by way of Hong Kong, exposed her grandchildren to a variety of regional Chinese cuisines. Her talent with food and the ritual of dining together deeply impacted Chops and his brother, Daniel. When the brothers moved to the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago in their early 20s, Chops cooked any chance he could get: at taquerias, local bars, and even his own wedding.

With more than a decade of industry experience between them, Chops and Daniel decided to join forces and open a place of their own. In true Wat family form, Lao Peng You became a family business with Chops’ wife, Taylor Reaves, designing the branding and interior, Daniel taking over the front of house, and Chops conceptualizing the menu. The restaurant’s handmade dumplings, noodles, and bing embody the culinary traditions passed down by Chops and Daniel’s grandmother. And Nai Nai’s legacy continues on Lao Peng You’s walls, where she is prominently displayed in framed photos.