Wokworks puts a twist on Asian food

Owner Brennan Foxman opened his new business in Rittenhouse.

Wokworks, located in Rittenhouse, employee Edgar Goldman III prepares an order on Nov. 15 | Andrew Thayer TTN
Wokworks, located in Rittenhouse, employee Edgar Goldman III prepares an order on Nov. 15 | Andrew Thayer TTN

It’s Asian-inspired food from Amsterdam brought to Philadelphia.

Twenty-two-year-old Brennan Foxman, owner of Wokworks, found success straight out of college. Located on 19th and Chestnut streets, Foxman’s business allows customers to build their own entrées using a variety of Asian ingredients, spices and sauces.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Foxman said he chose Philadelphia to be the home for Wokworks. Despite considering Miami and New Orleans as possible locations, Foxman said he chose Philadelphia because it offers a high volume of customers, between residents and the people who work in surrounding office buildings.

Even though he has only lived in Philadelphia for about six months, Foxman said he has always considered himself to be a Philadelphian because of frequent trips to the city to see sporting events and family.

“I’m a Philly guy,” Foxman said. “I’m an Eagles fan and have been a Phillies fan since I was a kid.”

At Wokworks, the customer is able to build as simple of a

dish as they would like or more complex meal, using ingredients that are sourced locally and homegrown in planters inside the establishment.

“The goal here is that you could leave here for under $10, but you could add a lot and leave here spending $20,” Foxman said. “[What] we wanted to do was provide these great Asian flavors that everyone really loves but with really great ingredients.”

Opening a restaurant was not always the plan for Foxman. Since he was a kid, he had planned on going to law school. He graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans with a degree in economics. Foxman said he found the inspiration to start his new business from his brief stay in Amsterdam.

“I lived in Amsterdam for a while and in Amsterdam, there’s a huge Southeast Asian influence and wok cooking in fast-food,” he said. “I love the idea of using woks and using Asian food as fast-food, so I really wanted to do that concept here.”

Foxman said there’s only one way to start a business, especially if the entrepreneur has never had prior experience in the field.

“You really have to jump head first,” Foxman said. “If you try to dance around your idea, you’re going to fail and you’ll also not do it the right way. About a year and a half ago, I just jumped right into it.”

While a college education is helpful in obtaining a successful career, Foxman’s story proves that it is not impossible to follow a different career path if it’s something a person is passionate about.

“It was a big learning process,” he said. “It takes months and months of figuring out what you’re selling and what people like. A lot of things are left to learn in the real world that they do not teach you in school.”

Foxman said there were many obstacles to overcome while trying to bring his concept to life. One of the hardest was just getting a loan.

“I had to go to 30 banks before getting the money,” Foxman said. “Eventually I ended up getting money from Bank of America, who had a really sympathetic loan officer who thought it was a good idea and he really liked it, so he was my advocate. That was challenging, but nothing was more challenging than physically building the restaurant.”

There are many restrictions to what he can do in the building because Foxman’s business is in the historic district.

“It takes a lot of time,” Foxman said. “If you’re deeply involved in something, you’ll find success.”

Daniel Lopez can be reached at daniel.lopez@temple.edu.

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