Francesca Hong is a second-generation Wisconsinite, mother, community organizer, and service industry worker in Madison, Wisconsin. Hong is the daughter of hard-working immigrants who made the journey to the United States in the 1980s so her father could pursue a doctorate in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Growing up, Francesca was witness to the hard work and perseverance of her parents. She learned the value of sacrifice and determination watching her mother’s journey as a stay-at-home mom who pursued a degree in Education at UW-Madison, later becoming a public-school teacher in Wisconsin for well over ten years.
The resilience and hard work of Hong’s parents shaped a life-long model that demonstrated the importance of a journey beyond fixed trajectories and perfect resumes. Inspired by their example, Hong decided to pursue her dream to become a full-time, professional chef in 2009. Unafraid to get her hands dirty, her trajectory in the kitchen started from low-wage, no benefits positions in the dish pit to slowly working her way down the line as a line cook, sous chef, and eventually one of the youngest and first female executive chefs at 43 North Restaurant. These valuable skills all contributed to the philosophies of community, inclusivity, and shared spaces that inspired the opening of Morris Ramen with husband Matt in downtown Madison, a mere six months after the birth of their son.
As a small business owner who had worked her way up from the bottom, Hong was already keenly aware of the gaps that exist between worker’s needs and how they translated to tangible resources available to employers; basic needs such as affordable healthcare, a fair minimum wage, and transportation fell on the shoulders of struggling business owners and their ingenuity. Already unable to acquire tangible resources to provide for her family business community, these issues were only further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic in tandem with a lack of action on behalf of local, state, and the federal government. Shining an unfavorable light on an already deeply problematic system, issues that arose during the pandemic have called Hong to action as a comprehensive leader and voice ready to create deep change in the state legislature. Her profound understanding of the struggles of working-class people and their families contributes to her ongoing commitment to creating social, racial, and economic justice.