Blog  Alumni Spotlight – Jeremy Klaben, Founder and CEO of Brightwok Kitchen

Alumni Spotlight – Jeremy Klaben, Founder and CEO of Brightwok Kitchen

1. When did you attend Camp?
2001-2011

2. What parts of camp did you enjoy the most as a camper?
Kesher, playing cards, frisbee, and other games with my best friends.

3. Why were you drawn to camp, to return so many times?
The great people!

4. How has your experience at GUCI impacted your life as an adult?
Besides meeting some of my best friends, I learned a ton of professional lessons being a counselor. These definitely help me build a fun and strong culture at my job now. Most days I actually feel like I’m still working at a summer camp.

5. How, if at all, did GUCI help you grow or find your Jewish identity?
I think GUCI was another step for me to learn and reflect on Jewish values and our history. Planning Shiur definitely helped me not only think about foundational parts of Judaism but also pushed me to find memorable ways to teach and discuss these among our campers.

6. Tell us about your career and how you came to create Brightwok Kitchen.
Somehow I was never on kitchen crew during my Avodah year. Some say that if I was I never would have opened a restaurant. I don’t know but it is a funny coincidence. I studied business at the University of Michigan and going into senior year I realized that with the right research and dedication, I could open a casual and affordable restaurant. There were countless successful examples of young folks going off an opening up high quality and delicious casual restaurants. I also thought there must be a middle ground between delicious food and healthy food. It cannot just be burgers vs. salads. So, after a ton of support from my family and friends (definitely my camp crew) and after 2+ years of working at two fast casual restaurants and finalizing on a new concept, we launched Brightwok Kitchen.

7. Tell us about Brightwok Kitchen.
Servicing hungry patrons in the Loop since 2015 (and River North since 2018), the counter-service joint, Brightwok Kitchen, has been dishing up vegetable-centric Asian fare with a conscience, thanks to a commitment to local ingredients. Brightwok Kitchen’s presents an approachable (and affordable) menu for all types of palettes as the entire menu is gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, and even includes a full lineup of homemade vegan sauces.Mindful of the seasons, Brightwok Kitchen constantly rotates its menu, introducing new bowls, sauces, veggies, and even drinks to keep up with local flavors of each season. For Brightwok mainstays, dive into the cheekily named and very popular Earth, Curry, and Fire, spiced with a fiery homemade Chili Coconut Curry topped with a Crispy Egg.

8. Talk about current success.
We’re improving everyday and we have a very long way to go! But we’re happy to say that we’ve been open for over four years with two locations and have a strong team, many who have been with us for years. Check us out on Yelp to see what our guests say: https://m.yelp.com/biz/brightwok-kitchen-chicago

9. What are your plans for the future?
My plans change often, but right now I imagine building out a few more Brightwok Kitchen’s in the next five years. Maybe I’ll work on other new restaurant concepts or other entrepreneurial ventures too. I’m keeping my options open.