Nabemono Shabu Shabu: Where You’re Fed Like Family
Even though Southern Californian winters are far from wintry, it’s still the perfect season to feast on some hotpot. For Nabemono Shabu Shabu founder Jessica Roan shabu symbolizes family, but also marks the beginning of her journey as a young, female, Asian business owner.
Jessica Roan was born and raised in Rowland Heights. Since she was in high school, Jessica would help out at the restaurant that her parents owned and operated. She later graduated from UC San Diego with a degree in communications thinking she would do something in that field, but at the time her parents had a successful Korean BBQ restaurant and needed help. Jessica willingly obliged and worked alongside her parents to help manage the restaurant.
She tells us, “My family has always been a big food family. My mom’s a great cook so she’s always doing something at home. That passion for food coupled with working in the industry and seeing my parents go through it kind of just led me down this path. When it really came down to it, I made the decision that I wanted to go into this full time. I knew that eventually I wanted to own my own restaurant and more than that, own my own business.”
With that goal in mind, Jessica started Nabemono Shabu Shabu. She says, “Our family would do traditional Thanksgiving dinner and then for Christmas we would always eat hotpot. It’s been a big love of mine, that’s why I decided to do this for my first restaurant.” With the concept in place, Jessica got started on construction and realizing her dream. What she quickly realized was that even though she had extensive experience helping her parents, running her own business was a completely different ball game. It was an uphill climb to get the electricity upgraded and she ran into major snags with construction. It took about a year and a half before Nabemono Shabu Shabu finally opened in June of 2019.
At Nabemono, Jessica prioritizes making everything she serves high quality at an affordable price point. She carefully sources high quality meats and vegetables, and says, “If it’s not something I want to eat then I’m not going to serve it or sell it to people.” While it is easy to make a flavorful hotpot with fillers and other additives, Jessica values serving food that is fresh and “something that [her] own family would eat for hot pot days.
As we’re all aware, the pandemic hit in March of 2020 and after not even one full year of business, Jessica and her team had to close down the restaurant for months. Prior to the pandemic Nabemono was dine in only, and to reopen Jessica had to venture into uncharted territory by offering new menu items, switching to a new service system to manage online ordering, and offer takeout. Jessica tells us, “It’s funny because I feel like with the reopening I am opening a new restaurant because it’s a completely new menu and a completely different way of operating. I feel like I’m starting over again.” She put together shabu kits for people to take home and enjoy and also created ready to eat shabu bowls for people who wanted hotpot without the hassle. Jessica laughs and tells us, “Looking back on it it’s all a learning experience, like if I can handle all of that I think I’m good.”
Jessica is no stranger to challenge, and while the Covid-19 pandemic was a big one, she challenges stereotypes and gender norms everyday as a young, Asian, and female restaurant owner. “People are always a little bit surprised to find out I’m the owner,” she says, “but I think as a female in the industry you definitely have to make a little more noise and make your presence a little more apparent.” She shared that it was a process, learning to establish relationships with staff as a younger female, and it is a dynamic that she is always cognizant of. “I try to make sure that I’m portraying myself as an equal. That I am just as knowledgeable or just as capable as anyone else.” Sometimes Jessica does feel the impacts of being a younger woman in a very male dominated food industry, but says, “You just have to deal with it and move forward and make sure that what you are doing speaks louder than what their thoughts are.”
Even though Jessica and Nabemono have shared a tumultuous and unpredictable journey, she is immensely grateful for the community and customers that keep her going. The best feeling is when people return and say they love the food at Nabemono, and she is also thankful towards the SGV Eats community and the community in the San Gabriel Valley. Jessica says, “There have been moments of extreme stress but I’m still happy to be doing what I’m doing and I love what we have built.”
Visit Nabemono Shabu Shabu!
Address: 27 E Main St, Alhambra, CA 91801
Website/Order Online: nabemonoshabu.com
Phone: (626) 703-4439
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