Chef Steve Chu - "One Bun at a Time"


Steve Chu was born in Baltimore County, Maryland, and eventually split his time between Montgomery County and Baltimore with his Taiwanese parents. Although his father is a chef, he discouraged Chu from following the same path. As he studied economics at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Chu realized that his dream was to open his own restaurant. While volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, he met his future business partners Nikhil Yesupriya and Ephrem Abebe. After graduation, Chu learned on the job at Chipotle, Shophouse (working under Kyle Connaughton, Nate Appleman, Joel Holland, Tim Wilden, and Steve Ells), Kin Shop (working under Evelyn Garcia and Harold Dieterle), Petit Louis, and his family restaurants.

In 2014, Yesupriya, Abebe, and Chu opened Ekiben, an Asian fusion fast-casual stand in a farmers market. In 2016, Ekiben moved to its own brick and mortar in the Fell’s Point neighborhood of Baltimore City. In 2019, Ekiben expanded to Hampden, and in 2023, Ekiben opened its third location in Riverside. Chu’s goal with the cuisine of Ekiben is to create a space for anyone, from any demographic, to try something different. In Baltimore, a city deeply divided along economic and racial lines, Chu aims to make everyone feel welcome “one bun at a time.” 

In 2017, Travel & Leisure named Ekiben the best place to get a sandwich in Maryland. In 2018, Eater nominated Chu as a semifinalist for their Young Gun Awards. In 2023, The James Beard Foundation named Chu a semifinalist for Best Chef of the Mid-Atlantic. Chu is also involved in Youth Works, a summer program for teens in Baltimore that provides job training and mentorship. He has more concepts in the pipeline for the Charm City—with different food but the same community-oriented ethos.  

Discover Chef Steve's Top Pick from the McCormick® Culinary Collection

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