Whitehall is home to a new restaurant whose owner plans to open multiple sites in central Ohio and out of state.
Allen Wong, 52, is the owner and operator of Fusion Fire Grill, 3686 E. Main St., in Whitehall.
"It's a fusion of Asian and (American) Southern flavor," said Wong, who has a lifetime if experience in the restaurant industry. He was 8 when he began helping at his parents' restaurant in Amsterdam, Holland.
Wong since has owned, operated, or worked at hotels and restaurants in 22 counties and can carry conversations in seven languages.
He has owned restaurants in four other countries and most recently worked for a national food distributor, but the opening of Fusion Fire Grill, four years in the making, represents the first restaurant Wong has owned in the United States.
"I created the concept of blending Asian and Southern flavors," said Wong, who also created the menu. "It's a new concept and something different."
Wong also chose to focus on the casual restaurant genre.
"I want to cater to the working class," said Wong, who added he's chosen family-friendly price points for dining at Fusion Fire.
For $6.50 to $7.50, customers have the choice of five entrees, rice and two vegetable selections.
While envisioning its fare, Wong also spent an equal amount of time scouting a site.
"I'd been looking throughout Central Ohio for several years," said Wong. "But what sold me on Whitehall is the new demographic that is developing."
Referring to the city of Whitehall's new marketing campaign and slogan, "opportunity is here," Wong said he chose Whitehall because of its potential and, well, opportunity.
"Opportunity is here, and I wanted to be in front," Wong said.
The 3,000-square-foot restaurant, at a former Dunkin Donuts, seats about 22 people indoors and about 26 on an outside patio.
Wong said he prides himself on not only catering to the working class, but staffing his restaurant with minorities, giving African-Americans in particular, an opportunity for employment and developing marketable skills.
Wong studied hotel management at a school in Brussels and gained most of his international culinary experience working at kitchen in hotels throughout the world, typically traveling from one international site to another as a fill-in for chefs on vacation or extended leave.
He has worked in virtually every Western European county, Egypt, Indonesia and other Southeast Asian locales and was sous chef at a restaurant in Bermuda.
Among the most popular items at Fusion Fire Grill, Wong said, is a "Southern Style" greens with bacon, Southern Corn relish, and Hibachi Chicken.
A choice of sauce is also important, and includes Fire's Spicy Tomato, and his trademark "Can I Get Some Yum-Yum" sauce, Wong said.
Fusion Fire Grill officially opened Oct. 24 with a ribbon cutting that Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard attended.
Wong said he intends to "put Whitehall on the map" as the birthplace of Fusion Fire Grill.
"I want to open several more restaurants in Central Ohio," said Wong, who has a goal of 30 restaurants throughout the United States in the next 10 years.