Why is Grace Young fighting to save Chinese restaurant

The coronavirus epidemic has turned 2020 into the deadliest year in American history, and in turn, has devastated industries and sectors large and small – particularly the restaurant business. In September, a National Restaurant Association survey revealed in September that at least 100,000 restaurants had closed permanently or long-term, and now the number is estimated to be close to 110,000.

As the epidemic began in the US in the spring, anti-Asian rhetoric, discrimination, and racist attacks occurred. In March, restaurants in San Francisco’s Chinatown from San Francisco reported as an 80 percent loss in foot traffic, triggering Chinese restaurant closures and all that has been warned about and the continued decline of historic Chinatown districts Fears intensified. Able to fully recover when an epidemic occurs.

It is this fear – of the loss of an important history and not just of beloved businesses – that has been motivating cookbook author Grace Young for the past nine months.

An empty restaurant in Chinatown, New York on February 13, 2020.Spencer Plot / Getty Images

“I am a cookbook writer. I have no experience as a lawyer, or as an activist, I have never done in my entire life, nothing I have been doing in the last nine months. For the majority of 2020, Young has changed somewhat as a female PR representative for Chinatown, and at the end of October, she inspired more people to support her local Chinese eateries and communities across the country Launched a social media campaign called #SaveChineseR Restaurant. .

Young credits Dan Souza, the Illustrated Editor-in-Chief of Credit for the idea of ​​the #SaveChineseR restaurant. When Souza reached out to Young for an interview for a story in the magazine earlier this year, he asked if they could do a story about Chinbown.

“We need to do something to bring awareness,” she said. It was Souza who suggested that Young try an Instagram hashtag and campaign. Young couldn’t stop thinking about the idea and eventually decided to partner with the James Beard Foundation to bring it to life.

“I was praising the program that the Beard Foundation is doing, Open for Good and that’s why I approached him,” Young, a two-time Beard Award winner and as judge for the Foundation’s Cookbook Awards Has worked in “I was a little shy to contact him but a friend of mine said to me, ‘You have nothing to lose.’ And I thought, ‘You’re right.’ And I just feel like the Chinese restaurant community and the Chinese business community, all these immigrant merchants and workers and owners, have no voice.… I thought the only thing that could help is actually awareness. Lana and hoping with awareness, people will show up. “

#SaveChineseR’s restaurant currently has over 830 tags on Instagram, and J. Cooks and cookbook authors such as Kenji Lopez-Alt, Kathy Ervey, Ellie Krieger, Ruth Richle, and Andrew Ziman have helped spread the word. But it prompted regular Instagram users to note, like user @ rebelg20005, who posted that they did their part to support Chinese restaurants along a 60-mile drive to takeout in Wisconsin.

Clay Reichenbach, CEO of the James Beard Foundation, told TODAY that the nonprofit acknowledged that Chinese restaurants had been badly affected by the epidemic.

“I think it’s not only this compound nature that they are going through all the downward pressures and challenges that COVID and the recession are having in restaurants across the country, but also the racist response in the context of xenophobia and racism Is that we’re around COVID were really eager to counter, “she said.

“Many of these are very small mom-and-pop restaurants that do not have the technology or infrastructure to do the many pivots needed at the moment. … Currently 43 percent of Chinese restaurants are cash only. Hence apps, e-delivery, e-payments and e-cards, everything in that regard, which is part of the arsenal that we are using as part of the restaurant (their survival toolkit)… She continued. “… the contribution that Chinese restaurants and that entire immigrant story have to the culinary culture of this country is critically important from our point of view that we can do to preserve.”

Young described the situation as a crisis for many Chinese restaurants that needed to be addressed immediately.

“In February, I wrote a piece for Food and Wine magazine, where I said Chinatown was in support of life. I would say right now, Chinatown has just taken away its oxygen, ”she said.

At the same time, she said, “But I feel optimistic.” Chinatown is like your old grandmother or grandfather that you love so much and I really believe that when you show up and you show that you care, it makes a lot of difference. And it is something about the soul that cannot be defined.

“These heritage businesses are truly the heart and soul of Chinatown. And that’s what gives Chinatown so much character. And when we think of Chinese restaurants, this is not only a place to eat, but this place, from restaurants to stores, is our memories. … So I think we’ll have to try these old businesses that have built Chinatown. And … they are just irreplaceable. “

“Three restaurants (in Chinatown, New York City), Woh Ho, Hope Key and Hope Lee are so old school,” he said, “there used to be restaurants like ours in San Francisco, and they completely disappeared. So, I know that if we lose them, there will never be another like that, and (if there was) it would be a complete replica that doesn’t even come close. Those cooks are cooking. Know a way that is like nothing else, and if we lose those cooks, nobody will be able to find them again. “

“I think people also forget that San Francisco and New York’s Chinatown are historic immigrant communities and they tell the story of America,” Young continued. “And if we allow these businesses to go without a fight, and therefore small landlords.” t pay their mortgage or they cannot pay their property taxes, this is what opens the door for gentrification.

“… I was born and raised in San Francisco and spent a lot of time when I was a kid in Chinatown, San Francisco, and I can’t even speak to what I’m reading and hear that San Francisco Chinatown What happened. “It’s very personal. And it’s really very heart-breaking to think of America, without San Francisco and Manhattan’s Chinatown.”

If you’re willing to participate in the #SaveChineseR Restaurant campaign, you can order from a nearby Chinese restaurant, post a picture of your favorite dish on Instagram, #SaveChineseR Restaurant in the caption and tag friends, family Can include photos and stories with hashtags. Any posts tagged with @beardfoundation can be retrieved by the nonprofit.

This story was originally published on TODAY.com.

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