Born in Taiwan, Liao grew up in Queens, New York, and refers to himself as a self-taught fishmonger. His family had a boat out in Connecticut, and he grew up fishing. From a very young age, his father taught him how to gut and clean fish, which left a lasting impression on him. Liao believes that there’s nothing better than catching a fish yourself and sharing it together at the table with friends and family, especially given how integral fish is to Chinese culture.
He honed his cooking skills while working as a private chef and running the Boba Truck for six years, until focussing on his vision of bringing together his love of fresh seafood and coffee. His passion for catching fish, handling it, processing it, cleaning it, and eating it culminated in The Joint—a beautiful, open, sustainable fish shop, coffee shop, and mini cafe on bustling Ventura Boulevard.
Liao has been very hands-on with every detail. Not only did he seek out collaborators, and test and create the food and drink menus himself, Liao designed and built all the seating and tables on-site using 150-year-old reclaimed old growth lumber. In addition to the décor, Liao visits the fish market every morning at 4 a.m. six days a week to buy and stock his store. Every day of the week, there’s something different, and it’s all curated based on what he thinks would be good to eat.
One thing Liao has noticed on the numerous fishing trips he’s taken is that fresh isn’t always best. Liao knew that Japanese chefs have been aging fish for centuries and this has led him to turn dry-ageing into an artform. Within Liwei’s custom-built dry-aging cabinet where fish are hung and gently rest like fine wines until Liwei determines that the moisture content, texture and flavour have reached their optimum.