Meet Jorge Wong – from Jennifer Lopez’s favorite to Alhambra’s Mancora Peruvian Cuisine

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

Jorge Wong (pronounced “Hor-hay”) would visit his relatives in Alhambra as a youth growing up in Lima, Peru. His father ran a successful car dealership in Lima, where Jorge worked in a number of departments growing up. His father hoped that Jorge would get an engineering degree and take over the car dealership, but in 2001, at the age of 19, Jorge left home and came to Alhambra to pursue his own dreams.

Born Peruvian-Chinese and fluent in Spanish and English, Jorge enrolled in the Communications program at Pasadena City College while staying with his Alhambra relatives. He began working as a part-time busboy first at the Crocodile Café in Pasadena, then Madre’s Restaurant, owned by one superstar, Ms. Jennifer Lopez. Jorge worked her Opening Night private party and with his outgoing personality got to know her, as he served the party-goers.

Jorge completed his degree at PCC and continued a series of restaurant jobs over many years, including Julianne’s in San Marino, Kendall’s Brassiere and Water Grill in downtown LA, Craft and the Beverly Hills Hotel. J.Lo didn’t forget Jorge. For years, whenever she ordered the special “McCarthy Salad” at the Beverly Hills Hotel, she specifically requested that Jorge, and only Jorge, make it for her.

Jorge also proved himself in the field of communications. He got a job at Spanish language radio station 107.1 FM’s Super Estrella show working the board behind the scenes for the station deejays. Soon enough, he was asked to go before the microphone with his own show. With a name like Jorge Wong, he became known to his listeners as El Chino.

Jorge Wong as 107.1 FM’s “El Chino.”

His popularity increased and he was hired to perform Spanish voice commercials for Alhambra Kia. Jorge’s knowledge of car dealerships, his large fan-base as a radio personality, and his familiarity with the Alhambra and San Gabriel Valley community led to his accepting a job as finance manager for three years, then as sales manager for two more years at Alhambra Kia.

One day Jorge saw the For Lease sign at a former water bottle store on Main Street. The opportunity to be his own boss! Jorge combined all his previous experiences to open a Peruvian restaurant called Mancora Peruvian Cuisine.

Mancora’s grand opening is on July 21. Jorge tells us all about it.

Q. Jorge, you’ve lived in Alhambra a long time. You’ve seen many restaurants come and go after only a year or two on Main Street. Why will yours be any different?
A. We are the only Peruvian restaurant in Alhambra. We are succeeding because we serve only the best authentic Peruvian food!

Q. This used to be a quiet water bottle store tucked into the corner of a convenience store parking lot. Why did you decide this was the place for your new restaurant?
A. I liked it because of many reasons. Business-wise, it has parking both in front and in back for our customers. When I stood here and looked at Main Street, I liked the architecture of the new buildings across the street where so many now live. I saw the people of Alhambra walking by and enjoying their city just like the most famous and popular outdoor restaurants in Peru. I had saved my money from the previous jobs and when this location became available, I knew it was the right place to make another of my dreams come true.

Q. Why did you name this restaurant Mancora?
A. Because I wanted a name that was easy for everyone to pronounce and to remember. Mancora Beach in Peru is famous world-wide for its surfing and for its beauty. Our customers say the paintings, music and food at our restaurant make them feel like they are at Mancora Beach.

Mancora’s signature dish, Lomo Saltado. Photo by Timmy Truong.

Q. The music playing in the background … it has a very South American feel to it.
A. Exactly! All the music in my restaurant comes from my own huge collection of music from South America – Peru, Venezuela, Columbia, Argentina, Uruguay, and others. When I was a radio DJ at 107.1 FM, we played lots of Spanish pop rock. But for my restaurant, we play true South American music with a softer feel that you will not find elsewhere in this area.

Q. There are two televisions in the restaurant showing soccer games in Spanish. I don’t recognize the station.

A. I love soccer and so do many of our customers. That station is BeIN Sports TV. It shows international sports and live soccer games from around the world.

Q. What is your most popular entrée?
A. Lomo Saltado is the standard by which to compare Peruvian restaurants. Many have said ours is the best. My cousin, Ms. Milenca Wong, is our Executive Chef. We opened last January 2017. Milenca is an expert in Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian, and of course Peruvian foods. When I asked her to come to Alhambra and help me with the menu and food preparation, she was already a popular college instructor in international food preparation at the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences located in Lima. It is also known in Spanish as Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC). It is always about the food and Milenca’s is the best.

Q. For someone who wants to start with a more familiar entree, what would you recommend?
A. Our rotisserie chicken is unlike anyone else’s. You see it roasting behind the counter. You get two side dishes of sauces for dipping the chicken. One sauce is mild and the other a spicy, green one made with real Peruvian spices. Give both a try!

Q. You have some other news for me?
A. Yes, yes! The Alhambra Planning Commission approved my request to add outdoor seating in front of Mancora! We are adding seven tables with umbrellas outside so that people can enjoy our food and enjoy the nice warm weather of Southern California. People walking by can see the great food we serve. We are open now from 11am-10pm daily, except Mondays. When we finish the outside patio, we are planning a Grand Opening on Friday, July 21.

Q. That’s really great, Jorge! Congratulations, I’m very happy for you. We do have one more item to complete for this interview. We’d like for Alhambra Source photographer and videographer, Timmy Troung, to video Executive Chef Milenca preparing “Lomo Saltado” for our readers. Shall we start?

A. Welcome to our kitchen and Chef Milenca!

Jeu Foon is a writer, singer, guitarist, ukulele accompanist, taiko drummer, former stockbroker and retired engineering supervisor. He is the founder and host of Rick’s Open Mic on Wednesday nights in downtown Alhambra. He loves writing about the real people of Alhambra.

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