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Abundance brings modern and elevated Chinese cuisine to Diner on Lee in Cleveland Heights: Doug Trattner reports

Chef Liu Fang and Carl Setzer have discovered an “abundance” of culinary resources, both in terms of raw ingredients and the people who prepare them.

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Chef Liu Fang and Carl Setzer met 20 years ago in Shian, a small city in China. They both had “regular” jobs, but an interest in homebrewing inspired them to open the first craft brewery in Beijing. It was no ordinary operation.

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“We wanted to use Chinese raw materials and using Chinese ingredients and Chinese stories into our beer,” Fang explains. “We used tea spices, and we name our beers with Chinese historic either figures or stories. So that brought us closer to a massive base of Chinese customers.”

So massive, in fact, that by 2017, Great Leap Brewing had four locations and was poised to become China’s largest craft brewery.

And then COVID-19 happened.

In February of 2020, the couple quickly packed up their things and moved to Northeast Ohio, where Setzer grew up and still had family. Here, the pair discovered an “abundance” of culinary resources, both in terms of raw ingredients and the people who prepare them.

“There's so much in this area, so much more than what an ordinary Chinese chef would dream of having on a daily basis,” adds Fang.

Those culinary resources included chefs Jeremy Umansky and Doug Katz, who each opened up their properties to Fang and Setzer to host culinary pop-ups. At those pop-ups, held at Larder in Ohio City and the Diner on Lee in Cleveland Heights, the couple sold buns, dumplings and noodles under the name Abundance Culinary.

Over the course of a year, Fang and Setzer cultivated a dedicated following for the chef’s elevated Chinese cooking. Fang leans into the region’s bounty to craft modern interpretations of classic Chinese dishes like Chinese sausage-filled dumplings, dry-fried green beans and Shanghai scallion noodles.

Now, after a year of “popping up” on both sides of town, the couple has set up permanent residence at the Diner on Lee Road. They have expanded their days and hours of operation to reach an even wider audience. Come summer, those days of service likely will expand to five or six per week. A license for beer and wine is in the works.

“Through this kitchen and through this opportunity, she's going to be able to provide more and more items that are going to be very nostalgic for a lot of people, but are also going to be the first time an even larger segment of consumers are ever going to have those flavors,” says Setzer.

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