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How College Crawfish Boils Became a Business Plan

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In partnership with the Triscuit Maker Fund and Indiegogo, we're spotlighting (and celebrating!) the stories of five on-the-rise, spirited food businesses across the U.S.

Here's how to throw a party: Invite twenty of your closest friends over, turn on some music, tap a keg, string lights from old, overgrown cypress trees, and throw fresh seafood down on a newspaper-covered table. (We're in. You?)

Photo by Sean Wen

This is exactly the scene Sean Wen, co-founder of Pinch Crawfish Kitchen in San Antonio, Texas, described to me over the phone last week after I told him I'd never been to a crawfish boil.

"The closest equivalent is a lobster or clam bake, but you've got to get yourself to a crawfish boil—it's unlike anything else," he said before launching into an ode to the Southern party staple. Ten minutes later, I was sold: This—the quintessential crawfish boil and the inspiration for Sean and his partner Andrew Ho's business plan—was something I had to get myself to.

Sean (in the background) preparing his first crawfish boil, a housewarming party for his business partner Andrew's sister.
Sean (in the background) preparing his first crawfish boil, a housewarming party for his business partner Andrew's sister.

Childhood friends Andrew and Sean both grew up in Asian-American households that combined Asian food (Andrew is Vietnamese while Sean is Taiwanese) and deep-rooted family values with Texas flavors and culture; throwing a party with great food was just what you did. So when they attended the same Austin-based college, the idea of throwing crawfish boils for their friends followed naturally.


But when college ended, so did the boils. For the six years following college, Andrew worked at an engineering company, then traveled to Thailand and Vietnam, where he taught English and worked as the operations manager at a barbecue restaurant, respectively. And after two years at an investment bank, Sean moved to Baltimore to work with the startup Venture for America.

But at the start of 2016, both Sean and Andrew left their full-time jobs to move back to Austin to pursue their passion (which, I should mention, comes second only to their love of basketball: "It's not even healthy how much we love basketball."). For the past two months, after a successful fundraising campaign and a serendipitous meeting with a crawfish fisherman (who they met while brainstorming at another crawfish restaurant), Sean and Andrew have been throwing pop-up crawfish boils through their newly formed company, Pinch Crawfish Kitchen.

The duo serves Andrew's Vietnamese-influenced family crawfish recipe ("Very heavy on the garlic and spicy.") in pop-up boils around town. Except for maybe the absence of a keg, you could say that the boils aren't too far from the ones they threw in their college days.

Photos by Sean Wen

"The biggest thing for us," Sean said, "isn't just to make money or even make food. It's about being a part of and developing a community that's mature and open-minded in regards to trying new flavors," like the the Vietnamese spices Sean and Andrew incorporate into their boils. He said, "Everything else we get is just additional to that." And he isn't just saying that—allocated in their business plan, Sean said, are even funds for throwing pro-bono crawfish boils.

More: One of Andrew's favorite recipes, Tom Rang Muoi, is a classic Vietnamese seafood dish. Find out how to make it here.

Sean "Crayler Swift" Wen (in the bandana) at a crawfish boil held in a friend's backyard.
Sean "Crayler Swift" Wen (in the bandana) at a crawfish boil held in a friend's backyard. Photo by Sean Wen

Their plans for a food truck are soon to follow, Sean explained; they'll be launching in the next two to three months. While the truck will be largely traditional—a crawfish-boil-on-wheels where customers can order crawfish by the pound—Andrew and Sean are planning to incorporate the same vibe they have always approached their boils with: Friendly, adventurous, and wholly reflective of them. As for their biggest goal for the truck? "We just care about making super dank crawfish for people."

"The biggest, most humbling thing is for people to believe in our story and to give us the opportunity to create something," Sean said, "But really—you need to go to a crawfish boil."

TRISCUIT supports makers and food business owners who take cues from simple ingredients. That's why they teamed up with Indiegogo to create the Triscuit Maker Fund, a special event supporting 55 inspiring, growing food projects, big to small, in need of funding. See all of the projects here.

Tags: crawfish