I went to The Rug for the first time a couple of years ago, when it was just a neighbourhood joint in a residential compound south of Chaoyang Park.
And yet I felt a special vibe coming from the cozy ambiance with comfortable sofas and a large communal table, not to mention the dishes, prepared with love and only the best ingredients on the market.
The Rug的布置给我留下了很深的印象: 长长的桌子、舒适的沙发，轻松的气氛；当然还有更重要的，美味的，用心制作的食物。
Today The Rug has grown and expanded into another location, a big New York-goes-cheeky space in a courtyard south of the ever-pop Sanlitun area. I met up with Gordon Chan, interior designer and currently one of the three Taiwanese owners together with Aden and Elen, to deliver a very felt Chiara’s Pick to them for their efforts to make foodies in Beijing healthier and happier.
今天，The Rug已经开了第二家分店，新址就在潮流地标的三里屯，新店的装修非常有特色。就在这儿我见到了The Rug三位创始人之一的 Gordon，他和 Aden, Elen一起将新的食物理念带到了北京。有机、本土、健康和创新的生活与食物理念是他们创立The Rug的初衷，也是我将这家店推荐给你们的原因。
We also talked about how it all started and how Gordon, Aden and Elin decided to go organic in a definitely not-so-environment-conscious Beijing.
Where does The Rug come from?
Proud parents of The Rugs are Eden, Elen and myself. We are friends, Taiwanese by birth and travellers in the soul. None of us had any food & beverage experience when it all started, back in 2011, but at a certain point of our lives we happened to be in Beijing and, not happy about the safety of what was in our dishes every day, we felt we had to do something to make this city a better place, and we decided to cook good and organic food along the way. I took a sabbatical year and started working very hard to make it happen, running from place to place to select our organic food’s suppliers and find the perfect location.
In which way does The Rug promote well-eating?
We had this crystal clear from the very beginning: we wanted to make The Rug way more than a restaurant, but rather a platform for organic farmers, milk makers, bakeries and other food related shareholders to form a community to feed Beijiners in a more conscious way. It was not easy to track them down, but now we are very proud of the network we built: we are happy to be working with Nanda, artisan baker from New York, with Shangrila Farms, organic honey makers and with more and more local partners. By now around 75% of the food we serve comes from a organic and trusted source, the rest is imported from abroad. The goal is to eventually have 100% local sourcing – this is our way to contribute to the environment issue, and to make Beijing an healthier city.
我们从开始就确立了一个观点: The Rug不仅是一个用餐的地方，它还是一个平台：比如有机农场、牛奶供应商、烘焙、以及其他与食物、食材有关的第三方。我们想为北京的朋友传达这样一个有机健康饮食的讯息。当时，我们费了很多的功夫去寻找合适的供应商，现在我们特别骄傲，我们已经建立了一个非常棒的渠道：比如Nanda，她是来自纽约的烘焙专家、还有香格里拉农场，他们提供有机天然蜂蜜，还有很多很多当地的农夫市场提供的食材。现在，我们可以确认的是，The RUG 提供的食物中，75%是来自有机农场，或者我们信任的供应商；剩下的我们是从国外进口的。将来，我们希望能100%从本土采购食材，这也是我们想为北京，为我们这个生存的美好环境想做的。
How did you choose the location for your first shop, in Lishue Garden Complex?
Ah! I’d rather say it was the location who actually chose us! We struggled for a long time because we couldn’t find any suitable place, and we almost decided to stop trying. Then we heard about this quiet venue in a residential compound in a very nice area, south of Chaoyang Park. After dealing with lots of paperworks and a pretty challenging landlord, we got our official licence and The Rug opened its doors on October, 17, 2011.
What did you have in the menu at the very beginning?
At the beginning we experimented a lot, playing around with the dishes I was in love with when I was living in San Francisco: bagels, frittata, pancakes, cakes. I still have our first menu ever: only one page with 5 dishes and drinks. It was a very back-to-the basics menu, the emphasis was on the quality of the organic raw ingredients we were using.
我们刚起步的时候，实验了很多种食物，主要都是我当时居住在旧金山时喜爱的食物：bagels, frittata, 煎饼、蛋糕等等。第一份菜单我当然记得：一共就一页，上面5道菜，以及一些喝的。那是一份还原到最基本口味的菜单，注重的是有机食材这个部分。
Could you imagine that The Rug would turn out to be so successful?
Not at all. Actually, for the first 4 months we had almost no customers. Then we had a very ‘mediatic’ guest who posted about us on Weibo – it was a boom. From that day on, at the end of February 2012, we have had our restaurant packed every single weekend. That guy’s tweet was a turn-on for lots of customers. At that point the real challenge came up, because we realised how not ready we were. We have been on a continuous improvement process since then!
How did you get from a cozy neighbourhood to the up-and-coming Sanlitun industrial courtyard area?
We knew from the very beginning we wanted to grow and expand into a chain, but our plan was also to keep the unicity of every single restaurant; only the vision of healthy and organic food would stay the same. We started looking for a second location and when we happened to visit this one we didn’t like it at all: it was a hot-pot restaurant back then, totally not appealing. Then we decided to actually take on this challenge and in three months we had a brand new restaurant ready to go.
我们开始成立The Rug的时候就计划要成长，要做更多的店。我们的计划是，要保证The Rug整体性，保证健康、有机的这个原则不变。我们当时来看了这个位置，开始一点的都不喜欢：它原来是一个火锅店，完全不是我们喜欢的地儿。后来，我们决定要试一试，改造这个地方。3个月后，新的The Rug开门营业了。
How big is The Rug’s family right now?
Including me, Aden and Elen, we have almost 100 people in the team. We have day and night shifts – we are open from 10.30am to 10.30pm every day of the week. About half of the team is actually made of chefs: the focus is always on the food experience, and we have lots of different dishes prepared daily from scratch in our fully equipped kitchens, so we need lots of cooking hands! For training purposes, we have actually grouped the staff in smaller teams, so they can learn from the most experienced and grow faster – we want all of them, from the waiter to the restaurant manager, to be able to make decisions on the spot and not to be scared by hard to please customers. Aden, Elen and I are very often in the restaurants, ready to back our people up if necessary, but we really want them to be more independent and confident about themselves.
算上Aden, Elen和我，我们现在有100多位同事。The Rug每天从上午10:30到晚上10:30营业，所以我们有2个上班的时间切换。我们团队中，一半是厨师：我们注重的是食物的新鲜和最佳体验，所以他们每天都在厨房忙碌。我们把员工变成小组，让经验最丰富的训练他们，这样他们成长地非常快。我们希望我们的团队，无论是店长、厨师还是服务生都能独当一面。我们三个人也经常会在店里，时刻帮助他们。我们特别希望他们能够变得更加自信，更独立。
What’s The Rug’s plan for the future?
We definitely want to keep growing and to expand into other cities – next in line is Shanghai – and to explore different concepts. Why not doing an organic Chinese restaurant or a local-source based cookie shop? There are so many interesting opportunities and so much room for improvement!
It goes without saying it, Gordon is a very inspiring person to talk to, and he opened my eyes and made me realise how the food that we eat can have such a big impact not only on our personal health, but also on the environment.
And also, I think what these three guys are doing by not giving up even when it is hard, by continuously improving and aiming high, by making Beijing a healthier and safer place is admirable. Moreover, their organic eggs benedict – with hollandaise sauce made from zero out of real eggs! – is a killer. I’m seriously thinking about going tomorrow for brunch. Meet you guys there?
Gordon Chan, insieme ai suoi amici di vecchia data Aden ed Elen, ha dato vita a The Rug, ristorante e piattaforma per il mangiare sano a Pechino. Con il 75% degli ingredienti provenienti da coltivazioni biologiche e un interior design che utilizza mobili in legno e divani in tessuti naturali, The Rug e’ diverso da ogni altro locale in questa citta’. Dopo un primo locale in un quartiere residenziale tranquillo, Gordon ha conquistato uno spazio industriale a Sanlitun e lo ha trasformato in un flagship cafe’ dove l’accento e’ tutto sul menu, con diverse preparazioni che coprono dalla colazione al pranzo alla cena. Provare per credere!
For the chat with Gordon Chan at The Rug in Beijing I was delighted to wear:
Dress 裙: ‘s Max Mara by Max Mara
Earrings 耳饰: vintage
Bangles 手镯: Max Mara
Green bangle 绿色手镯: bought in Ho Chin Minh city from a street seller 购自越南胡志明市
Silver ring 银色戒指: Furla
Bag 包包: Celine
Lipstick 唇彩: Chanel Lip Gloss – brillant lêvres #69
The kit of the perfect reporter is:
sparkly pink pen 笔: Cross
violet organizer 笔记本: Filofax
Most of the pictures at The Rug were taken with my white Sony NEX-5T.
For all the other pictures special thanks to The Rug’s team.
Chinese translation by Jasmine Wang.