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AAPI Heritage: Memphis family reflects on legacy in restaurant industry

Updated: May. 28, 2021 at 5:35 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - May is Asian American Pacific Islander (APPI) Heritage Month, and WMC Action News 5 is celebrating the outstanding Asian Americans in our community.

Edward Pao, known as Mr. Eddie to most, is creating a legacy in the Bluff City through food and family.

It’s been nearly 45 years since Pao moved from Taiwan to Memphis. He had a career in movie production, but wanted to take a different route.

“I wanted to try something else, so I opened a restaurant,” he said.

Pao opted to give Memphis a taste of China, and with the help of family recipes, he and his brother Alfred opened the Formosa restaurant on Summer Avenue.

“I can make real Chinese food, but American’s taste is a little bit different,” Pao said.

The restaurant was a hit, and the brothers soon expanded to multiple locations throughout the city. Pao passed his entrepreneurial spirit down to his children Alex and Michelle who had a new vision for Formosa.

“For him to evolve at the age of 68 was truly amazing. And for him to put his trust in his kids to say, okay, let’s see what we can do and to highlight Asian cuisine in general,” said Michelle Pao Levine.

The family decided to create a new restaurant called Mosa Asian Bistro, which expanded from Chinese cuisine to include Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese cuisine.

“Word of mouth, a little bit of advertising, and it just surpassed our expectations and boom off, we ran,” Alex said.

The coronavirus pandemic brought on a challenging year, both for business owners and the Asian American community.

Pao says he was fortunate to keep the business up and running.

“We have many people work for us, and nobody lost their job. No one quit,” he added.

The family says they were also fortunate to have support from the Memphis community in the midst of attacks against Asian Americans across the country.

“We’ve never, for one moment, experienced anything close to like Asian hate or anything from any of our customers. They have been awesome, just supporting us there the whole way,” Alex said.

Pao says he prides himself on personal interactions with customers and their extended work family.

His children say they’re proud of him for the legacy he’s leaving on the Memphis community for generations to come.

“The people of Memphis is community. I mean, they love hard, you know, and all the different kinds of different groups of communities, they will show their appreciation,” Pao Levine said.

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