How I became “The accidental voice of Chinatown”
Since January 2020, my beloved Chinatown here in New York has been under siege. Due to the ongoing pandemic, a multitude of restaurants and businesses have closed permanently, while others struggle to remain open. Most restaurants that have survived are operating at a mere twenty percent of pre-COVID capacity, and this is not sustainable. Over the past year, as I watched this tragedy unfold, I realized Chinatown (actually Chinatowns everywhere) was in dire need of someone to speak for this treasured ethnic community wavering on the brink of extinction. It needed an advocate, a dedicated voice to rally the press and public to this crisis. I became that person, along with many others who have since responded to the need.
Yes, it seems I’ve become “the accidental voice of Chinatown,” as New York magazine’s Grub Street blog christened me in a recent article. Thankfully, a broad range of national media and food-related organizations (see below) have heard the call to save Chinatown and Chinese mom-and-pop restaurants all across the country: Splendid Table, Thrillist, and Serious Eats Special Sauce podcast have run interviews and stories as have Food & Wine and Today.com. Every mention helps because right now the one thing that’s needed is to get word out that our steady patronage is vital to the survival of Chinatown.
I invite you to join me, going forward, in supporting any and all efforts to save Chinatown and Chinese mom and pop businesses across the country. Last year I partnered with the James Beard Foundation to start the #SaveChineseRestaurants Instagram campaign.To participate post your favorite dish from your local Chinese restaurant with the hashtag #SaveChineseRestaurants. I’m so thrilled that many have done so, including TV food personality Andrew Zimmern, who urged fans to “Join me, @beardfoundation, @stirfryguru, and others in supporting independently owned Chinese restaurants around the country.” This campaign is ongoing and I urge everyone who loves Chinatown and Chinese mom-and-pop businesses as I do—we’ve lost over half of them—to add their posts.
In January, I launched my own Support Chinatown Fund, in partnership with the grass-roots organization Welcome to Chinatown. My aim was to raise $20,000 to provide at least 2,000 nutritious hot meals for low-income, food-insecure, and at-risk senior residents in NYC. We’ve reached over $35,000 which means we can provide more than 3,500 meals! Let’s keep it going! The meals will be purchased from legacy Chinatown restaurants Hop Kee, Hop Lee, Wo Hop (upstairs and downstairs) and distributed by community partners that serve neighbors in need. Your gift of $10 will help deliver a delicious meal for an in-need resident while providing critical income to struggling Chinatown eateries. I will keep you posted and I ask you just to keep showing up, especially now as Chinatown continues to face the challenges of winter weather. For those of us who love Chinatowns, wherever they may be, this is our time to step up.
Here are some articles in case you want to read more about the work that I’m doing.
- 5 Women Doing Strong and Lasting Work to Improve Our World (theKitchn)
- The New York Times recommends Coronavirus: Chinatown Stories (NYT)
- Special Sauce podcast Ed Levine Interviews Grace (Serious Eats)
- Saving Chinatown with Grace Young (Splendid Table)
- Grace Continues to Advocate for the Chinatown Community (Thrillist)
- The Accidental Voice for Chinatown (Grub Street)
- Why Grace is fighting to Save Chinese restaurants (Today)
- KCRW discusses Coronavirus: Chinatown Stories
- Campaign Is a Love Letter to Chinese Restaurants (Food&Wine)
- Grace Discusses NYC’s Chinatown on 1 Year Anniversary of COVID (TheWorld)
- Boston’s Chinatown Struggles to Survive (Boston Globe)
- 3 Chinatown Businesses Impacted by COVID (BuzzFeedNews)
- Grace in Chinatown for Lunar New Year (CBS NewYork)
- James Beard #SaveChineseRestaurants Initiative
- Chinatown Stories Featured in Smithsonian Food History Weekend (National Museum of American History)
- Grace on ABC Localish (abc)
- Grace on The BBC (Interview begins 24:10)