Frustrated with corporate life in the Bay Area, Will Yan decided to pursue a second career as a restaurant owner on the Central Coast.
In late summer 2016, Yan, who grew up around the restaurant industry, and his wife, Pinky, opened Poke Chef at 580 California Boulevard — the first poke bar in San Luis Obispo.
The couple designed a menu different from others in SLO County, serving popular poke bowls and sushi burritos, combining Hawaiian and Asian flavors into one healthy dining experience.
In July, they opened a second restaurant at 1405 Spring St. in Paso Robles.
Poke is raw, sushi-grade fish commonly served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine, and customers are able to build their own bowls using fresh ingredients.
“I wanted to deliver more variety and something that everybody would enjoy,” said Yan, who was born in Hong Kong and raised in San Francisco.
Though Yan declined to discuss financial information about their business, he said Poke Chef has found an under-served niche in the county.
“Originally, I was just thinking something for me and my wife,” Yan said. “I never even imagined opening three stores.”
Poke Chef employs about 20 part-time workers, Yan said, and he expects to hire another 10 to 15 when the new store, located at 2252 Broad St. in Suite 130, opens later this fall.