How Shirley Chung has pivoted her business and fights anti-Asian hate
Shirley Chung cooks at the Michael Muller’s HEAVEN, presented by The Art of Elysium, event on January 5, 2019 in Los Angeles.
Phillip Faraone | Entertainment Getty Images | Getty Images
When the pandemic hit, chef and reality TV star Shirley Chung quickly pivoted her restaurant business to weather the crisis.
Dealing with anti-Asian hatred was another matter.
Hearing about alarming racist incidents and hate crimes across the country recently, including the murder of six Asian women near Atlanta in March, Chung felt the need to speak out.
âEverything that was happening touched us so closely,â the 44-year-old said of herself and the Los Angeles chef community.
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Chung, who was a finalist on Bravo’s reality TV show “Top Chef”, also suffered incidents at Culver City, Calif., Restaurant Ms. Chi Cafe, which she co-owns with her husband. His non-regular guests began to question its cleanliness, despite seeing disinfected tables in front of them. The back door was graffiti. In response, Chung added additional cleaning services and installed security cameras to make its customers and staff feel safe.
More recently, someone stole a takeout order from the counter, threatened her husband, Jimmy Lee, and shouted racist comments.
âIt made me want to be even more vocal and really share my experience,â said Chung, who was born in Beijing and immigrated to the United States at 17.
While the couple’s parents wanted them to remain silent in fear for their safety, Chung said making the noise will help bring attention to the plight of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and the impact of hate on their businesses.
âWe don’t want to be silent anymore,â she said. âWe want to lead by example and let our parents see that everything is fine. The time has come.
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When Covid first struck, Chung quickly made adjustments to his business.
âIt was the only way to survive,â she said.
Upon reopening, she resumed shipments of her frozen meatballs to Goldbelly, a gourmet food delivery company. In the first week her orders tripled and she knew she was on to something. She has increased her offerings and now has a full-fledged store. She also started doing digital cooking demonstrations.
While trying to find solutions, she started talking to other chefs in the area to exchange ideas.
âFrom these conversations I realized that many owners and chefs at AAPI did not have access to many of the things that ‘traditional’ restaurants and chefs are used to, government grants and updated policies. to social media platforms to promote their business, âsaid Chung, author ofâ Chinese Heritage Cooking From My American Kitchen. â
She began helping fellow AAPI business owners by sharing new policies and suggesting that they join the Independent Restaurant Coalition. She has also helped lesser-known restaurants access platforms like Goldbelly to increase their income, she said.
In March, Chung participated in the LA Food Gang’s fundraiser, Let’s Eat Together, which raised nearly $ 60,000 for struggling AAPI restaurants.
This Sunday, Chung will also be participating in a week-long event called Pop Off LA, where select Los Angeles restaurants will collaborate with unique creations. A portion of the proceeds will go to the nonprofit Off their Plate, which will then hire struggling Asian restaurants to cook meals for the AAPI organizations.
Hope for the future