Father of the Year Honorees 2024 – Jason Wong

Recipe for Fatherhood

By Valerie Vinyard

It’s been said the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. 

You could argue Jason Wong earned his nomination for Father of the Year through those of his children’s.

“Jason’s love language is food,” said his wife, Joyce. “He’s a very talented chef and loves to cook. Every weekend, you’ll find him cooking up a feast to share with family and friends.”

Jason is one of this year’s Father of the Year honorees chosen by Father’s Day Council Tucson, which recognizes fathers who are role models and also raises funds for Type 1 diabetes research and endowment at Steele Children’s Research Center. Since 1994, the council has raised nearly $5 million.

It will hold its 28th annual gala to honor Jason and four other fathers on June 8 at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort.

Jason, 68, grew up in Flagstaff but moved to Tucson to study pharmacy at the University of Arizona in 1973. After he graduated, he worked in the field for just a few years.

“I’m too social of a person to be kept behind a counter counting pills,” he said. “You didn’t have time to fully interact with people.”

He then re-entered the restaurant business, having grown up working in his family’s diner and chop suey house in Flagstaff. He and Joyce bought Golden Dragon restaurant on Oracle Road in 1981. Joyce worked the front of the house, while Jason was the chef.

The seven-day-a-week grind was difficult to maintain, however, so the couple exited the business in 1984. “There was no personal or social life,” Jason said. “I love the business, but it’s very difficult.” 

He first met Joyce in the mid-1970s at a dance at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center.

“I knew she was special,” he said. He saw her again at the UArizona where she was majoring in fashion design. They started dating and married in 1981.

After selling Golden Dragon, residential real estate was next on Jason’s career list. The 1986 recession was tough to weather, but he persevered. He now works for Red Point Development, a commercial real estate company focusing on land, commercial and town-home development.

The couple has two children − Alexa, now a 31-year-old ICU nurse for Banner Health, and Matthew, 29, who works in the family’s real estate business, now in its third generation.

“Being a dad is one of the best experiences you have in your life,” Jason said. “Your child challenges you and brings you a lot of satisfaction.”

 “My dad was your typical Asian father, very stoic, ‘Did you do your homework,’ ‘How are your grades?’ ” Jason said recalling his upbringing.

He said the transition to parenthood was difficult at first. “Hopefully, if you do your job right, you emphasize the positives, you acknowledge the negatives, but you don’t dwell on the negatives,” he said.

“The Chinese have a saying: ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ ” he said. “It’s so true. You need grandparents, family and friends. As a parent, you only have so much influence.”

He’s also quick to praise his wife. “My wife has the greatest and the most influence on them,” he said.

She sings Jason’s praises, too. “When Jason shares his food, he shares his heart,” Joyce said. “Everyone leaves our house with a full stomach, a smiling heart and a bag of leftovers for another meal.”

“Some of my favorite memories are my dad making Chinese food, immersing my brother and I in Chinese culture at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, and having us travel to China,” said daughter Alexa. 

Added son Matthew: “Growing up, I loved our late-night cooking sessions. My dad would cook whatever dishes my friends and me wanted to eat. 

“One time, dad was trying to perfect the recipe for Asian hotdogs to be sold at Tucson Meet Yourself. Dad perfected the Zen Dog and Dragon Dog and sold thousands of them to raise money for the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center.”

Jason stresses the importance of being involved where you live.

“When I was growing up, my mom told me you have to be part of the community,” said Jason, who participated in Greater Tucson Leadership and serves on various community committees. “You hope that community involvement will rub off,” he said, chuckling.

Above all, Jason hopes his children remember one thing.

“I hope they learn that it’s OK to fail,” he said. “So many people live their lives being uncertain. It’s OK to fail. Just get up and try again.”

Pictured above from left – Alexa, Jason, Matthew & Joyce

28th Annual Father of the Year Awards Gala

Saturday, June 8, 2024 

Loews Ventana Canyon Resort


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