CHELMSFORD — Gene Wu didn’t plan on a noodle-pulling career. The effusive proprietor of Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe came here 15 years ago from Xi’an, the capital of northwest China’s Shaanxi province, to study chemistry and find steady work. He did the corporate grind for a while, but pushing 40, he craved more.
Now Wu toils happily at a small storefront, stretching noodles behind a counter. “Not many people want to do this,” he says. Hand-stretching noodles is an arduous process that rewards only those who appreciate sunrises. Still, Wu saw an opportunity: While Western Chinese restaurants like Xi’an Famous Foods are making waves in New York, Massachusetts lacks authentic Xi’an cuisine, hallmarked by noodle soups and flatbread. “In northwest China, we didn’t have much rice,” he explains. He opened on Thanksgiving Day 2011. When most Americans were scarfing turkey, Wu was rolling dough.