kō•än, opening in early August, seeks to bring stories, food and people back to the former ān cuisines space in Cary, NC. With a focus on humble, tranquil, “food for thought,” kō•än will bring a renewed energy and feel to Cary’s dining scene. kō•än’s menu is focused on sharing food that celebrates the unsung heroes of Southeast Asian cuisine. The new restaurant will be located at 2800 Renaissance Park Pl., Cary, NC 27513.
“What remains of ān cuisines is the sacred space, and the immigrant Japanese maple tree beside the beautiful empty building full of beautiful empty frames. What we will bring (back) into the space, to honor its rich tradition and celebrate its history is the kō: the people, sharing good food and drink and telling their stories. One by one, refilling the beautiful empty frames,” states kō•än’s owner Sean Degnan.
The kitchen at kō•än will be led by Executive Chef Drew Smith, formerly of Raleigh’s bu•ku and so•ca, and winner of 2019’s Cooking for a Classic dining competition. Smith’s menu and vision for kō•än includes an array of small plates meant for sharing like Cauliflower 65, Duck Bao and Lobster Gyoza, along with large plates like NC Thai Fried Snapper and Green Tea Smoked Duck. Expect to find inventive bowls on the menu as well like the kō•än Hot Pot brimming with lobster, cod, shrimp and local vegetables or the Vietnamese Pho with Wagyu Beef Short Rib.
“This space and the kō•än concept represent an amazing medium in which I can share a story with everyone, whether they’ve traveled or experienced the Asian culture or not. An experience at kō•än can be quite adventurous with octopus and snails, or approachable with dumplings and ramen. Our guests are going to experience a part of me, my story and the reason I will always be humbled and inspired by Asian cuisine,” Smith shares. “I will never master this food. It’s not meant to be mastered. It’s meant to tell a thousand stories to anyone who will listen.”
For trusting, food-loving patrons, kō•än plans to offer an omakase menu developed by Smith that will offer 5- and 7-course tasting menus with wine pairings. There will be limited availability each evening.
A centerpiece to the new restaurant will be its zen-like ambiance. kō•än plans to incorporate living walls, fountains and wood textured furniture throughout the restaurant, beautifully redesigned by Courtney Evans of Tactile Design.
kō•än will provide job opportunities to local applicants. Interested residents may apply online at www.koancary.com and hiring starts July 1st.
For more information about kō•än, visit www.koancary.com or their Instagram and Twitter. For logos and Smith’s headshot (credit: Cara Grace Powell, f8 Photo Studios) please visit Google Drive, and for food photographs please visit Dropbox.
About Executive Chef Drew Smith
Starting in the restaurant industry in 2004, Drew Smith knew immediately that hospitality was his calling. Working as a bartender in Chapel Hill, NC he saved enough money to begin traveling. On a whim, he and a friend went backpacking through Southeast Asia for a few months. Exploring Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, the spark began.
The following summer, Smith moved to Saigon, Vietnam and that's where he discovered food and cooking. Figuring out how to make these dishes became and obsession. Between scuba dives and photographing this amazing culture, he wandered the streets looking for something delicious. For the first time, he stumbled upon Pho, a Vietnamese beef soup, and never looked back. Since, it’s become one of his most sought after dishes and one of the most important catalysts of his career.
Upon returning home, Smith started working at bu•ku in downtown Raleigh, NC hoping to save enough to attend a local culinary school. After speaking with the chef who advised against school, Smith started training in the kitchen instead. With nothing holding him back, he read, he watched and experimented with anything he could get his hands on. After 3 months, he was promoted to sous chef; after 12 months, chef de cuisine. After 5 years, it was time for a new direction. Smith joined the team at Standard Foods and worked under Chef-Owner Scott Crawford, studying and learning and absorbing anything and everything.
In February of 2016, he rejoined the bu•ku team and proceeded to open two restaurants in two years; so•ca in Cameron Village and bu•ku in Wake Forest.
The next chapter moves to Cary, NC where he can finally tell his story of those travels and those meals that changed his life. Hopefully the stories he tells through food can motivate others to explore the world, even without leaving the state we call home.