A.J. Faung, Head Chef
Head Chef A.J. Faung hails from a variety of American cities, such as Baltimore, Chicago and Tampa/Clearwater. A.J. has dual citizenship in the United States and Australia, a mix of Chinese and Eastern European ancestry, and a crazy passion for food.
A.J. started his career in the service industry as most people do: bussing tables and doing dishes. Working with food has always been his first love. He says, “There is nothing better than preparing food that brings joy to people.”
A.J. attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando, Fl., graduating Magna Cum Laude. After graduation, he started working for Martin Yan from “Yan Can Cook” a P.B.S. television series. A.J. worked on recipe testing and research for a companion cookbook to the series. His hard work was rewarded when he was asked to work on the television series back kitchen preparing dishes to show during different parts of the cooking process. A.J. then went to work in one of the Yan Can Restaurants, working his way up to Executive Chef. During his time there, the restaurant was awarded a Top 20 Asian restaurant in the U.S.
Chef Yan has been a long-time mentor for A.J. . He says, “I have been fortunate to learn the fundamentals of Wok cookery [ from Yan ] and how to balance sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy Asian ingredients.”
A.J. has also worked at one the oldest restaurants in San Francisco’s Fishermans Wharf, Aliotos, where he was privileged to learn the family recipe for Ciopinno (a hearty Italian seafood stew). Faung has lived in Panama City, Panama as a Corporate Chef for a local restaurant group… and now his journey brings him to the City of Oaks.
Dutch Morrell, Manager
Dutch is originally from Plymouth, Michigan where he grew up with two brothers and two sisters. Since moving to Raleigh, North Carolina just a short 3 years ago he has finally found his home with Eschelon Hospitality. Dutch’s favorite thing about Zinda is the staff; “they are very structured,” he says. When he is not working you can probably catch him kicking a ball and reminiscing about the days he played collegiate soccer.
Brandon Marshburn, Bar Manager
Brandon is from Pink Hill, a small town in eastern North Carolina, and has been in Raleigh since 2005. He has been a part of the Eschelon family for years, getting his start at The Oxford Gastropub. Transitioning to Zinda in a management role has been quite successful for Brandon. He says that "The energy that you feel as you walk in the door is unlike anything else in downtown Raleigh." Brandon is no stranger to the restaurant scene in downtown Raleigh, which is why many of the regulars at Zinda have been regulars of Brandon's for many years. If he's not on a disc golf course, playing with his American Stffordshire Terrier, Titus or reading the latest sci-fi novel, he's catching up on the latest trends and methods for creating your favorite drink.
Meghan Bonk, Events SpecialistBorn and raised here in Raleigh, Meghan attended gradeschool and highschool in downtown before becoming a Seahawk at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. With a passion for foreign languages and travel, shortly after graduating she spent 8 months in Northern France learning the language and culture. After returning she found her home in the Hospitality Industry in Raleigh again. When she's not working, Meghan loves traveling and exploring new places. Whether it's a trip overseas or outside Raleigh, adventures are everywhere. She's excited to join Zinda and Eschelon to help them grow and become an even stronger and more creative team.
Lauren Hussey, VIP Coordinator
Lauren hails from The Oak City, third generation actually, though she was really born and raised in Cary; about 20 minutes away. Lauren really loves anything in the great outdoors but mostly going for a run and playing with the pups, Oliver and Duke. Occasionally, when in the mountains, you’ll find a snowboard strapped to her feet, as-well-as a surfboard when she heads to the beach. If Lauren is staying in you can expect great things coming from the kitchen… and the bar! Food, wine, and Pinterest are her guilty pleasures.
Since becoming the VIP Coordinator at Zinda, Lauren really feels like she is on the right path, professionally. Zinda stole her heart while still under construction in May 2012, and as we continue to grow, she is following suit.