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Kevin Feng: More Than a Waiter

October 19, 2014

by Katie Klimacek

In the restaurant business where waiters get paid minimum wage, work long hours standing on their feet, and put up with all types of customers, it is sometimes challenging to find a server who really delivers to his customers.

At Ruby Asian Bistro at 875 Madison Ave. one seasoned waiter –  Kevin Feng – treats his customers like close friends.

At Ruby, Feng takes the orders, serves food, and works on maintaining the front end. Feng is not the kind of waiter to get in his customers’ faces or be disingenuous with his service.

Feng was born in 1969 in Canton, China, about 75 miles northwest of Hong Kong. In 1983, when he was only 14, his parents moved the family to America. Feng’s uncle was already living in the states and was able to sponsor his family.

Kevin enjoys spending time with his dog Jackie.

Kevin enjoys spending time with his dog Jackie.

“Living in China was tough,” said Feng, but life for the young boy was just as difficult once the family arrived in the states. Feng was a teenager and knew no English before coming to America, which made the  transition hard.

“Being 14 is an awkward age in life and it is an awkward age to move to another country, where you don’t know the language,” Feng said. When his family arrived in the states, they settled in Chinatown in New York City. His parents enrolled him in a bilingual school, but the arrangement was difficult because he would go to school and speak English, but hang out with other kids from Chinatown and speak Chinese.

In 1999, when Feng was 30, he decided that NYC was too faced paced for him and he moved to Albany. He chose the Capital Region because it was less hectic and slower paced, but still close enough to home where he could go and visit his parents.

Once in Albany, Feng worked in a number of Asian cuisine restaurants and even temporarily worked for the post office. He found Ruby after eating there one night, and the owners who he knew prior, asked him if he would be interested in working there. Feng has been there three years now.

“Kevin is a fantastic waiter. He does his job with a lot of class and he is certainly very enjoyable to be around. What makes him stand out is how his classiness is part of him, as opposed to many other waiters who its somewhat of an act,” said Blaise Bryant, a recent Saint Rose graduate and a frequent customer at Ruby.

Another student of Saint Rose, who was celebrating at Ruby, knows first hand the effort that Feng puts into his work. On her 21st birthday, Rachel Bolton, a senior, was enjoying a celebratory sake, and when she was getting ready to leave, Feng checked on her and made sure someone was taking her home. The two knew each other prior to Bolton’s birthday, and he always asks how she and her friends are doing and makes sure they have completed their schoolwork.

“Kevin is very kind-hearted and knows how to connect with people while he serves food. He is one of the reasons Ruby is such a good restaurant,” Bolton said.

When he is not working at Ruby, Feng devotes his time to his two-year-old Jack Russell, Jackie. He likes to take her down to Washington Park to get all of her energy out. Once at the park and away from traffic, Feng lets Jackie off her leash to roam free, chase squirrels and explore. Jackie is well-trained and with just a simple call of her name, the little spitfire of a pooch is back at Feng’s feet.

Most of the people in the park know Jackie by name. She usually runs ahead of Feng, but periodically looks back to make sure he is still in her sight. The two are like friends, they keep each other company and Jackie definitely makes Feng laugh, and occasionally yell.

When he is not at the restaurant or taking a stroll with Jackie, Feng enjoys baking. His favorite thing to make is a chocolate soufflé, a flourless cake. He once tried one at a restaurant and enjoyed it. When he went home he looked up how to make the desert, made some modifications to suit his taste buds and his signature soufflé was born. He also enjoys making classic NYC Cheesecake and other desserts. If a spot opened up near the Saint Rose campus, Feng would like to try to get a spot selling scones and other sweets, he chuckled at the idea of “Kevin’s Confectionaries.”

Feng doesn’t know how much longer he will stay at Ruby. Despite how much he loves his job, it is physically demanding. He said he would stay at least one more year, but after that he is not sure.

“I like my job and being around the students because it makes me feel young again.” -30-

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