Chao Ku means "super cool" in Mandarin slang and we feel the name sums up our mission with the restaurant; to offer the traditional and inspired Chinese dishes that we love most in a relaxed, fast casual atmosphere with craft beer, wine and mixed drinks, all for a reasonable price. 


John Fielding - Owner

Paul Pelt- Head Chef

John’s goal in life is to eat the perfect lunch while also planning the perfect dinner. For him, that doesn’t mean something fancy (well, sometimes) but the right food with the right people. He always thought that by now he’d be driving his kids to school in a hovercraft. Dreaming big and doing things people say he shouldn’t are what drive him.

Starting out in the retail food business as a produce buyer and then as a waiter and bartender, John has always loved both businesses. With partner Tracy Stannard, he started the Broad Brand Market in 2008. They are now getting ready to launch Soapstone Market. Chao Ku came to being conceptualized while spending time with his mother in law and her extended family (she is one of sixteen). They didn’t prepare the oily, over sauced food that he grew up knowing as Chinese food and it had a much fresher and healthier approach. Seeing a gap in the market and hoping to keep the prices affordable he began working on Chao Ku with longtime friend Paul Pelt.

Most days, John can be found in the aisles of Asian markets, checking the Nats score on his phone, and dreaming big. Oh, and always….ALWAYS, talking.


Paul wants to live a world where you can instantly be teleported to Chinatown in Flushing, NY, cookbooks and pints of ice cream magically appear in his backpack and he has a lifetime pass at the 9:30 Club.

As a cook and chef with over 30 years of experience he brings his passion and penchant for authenticity to each opportunity. He worked side by side with some of DC’s best chefs and was top toque at Rocky’s and the Tabard Inn. Paul learned his craft not in the classroom but in the real world of hot, bustling kitchens. He brings his experience growing up in the South Side of Chicago and Southeast DC with him everywhere he goes, and is one of DC’s preeminent African American chefs.

His new project, Chao Ku, is a tribute to the Chinese cuisine he has long loved eating and the desire to offer DC’s residents an affordable dining option. Always contientous of health and allergy concerns his menu offers many vegetarian and gluten-free options and a lighter approach than your traditional American-Chinese fare.

When not covered in flour hand-making Rou Jia Mo (Chinese burger buns) he can be found planning his next playlist on his iPOD. It may include Hendrix, Steve Earle, Mos Def, Prince, and Joni Mitchell. But, always….ALWAYS, his favorite band, Living Colour.