Chinese restaurants in NYC donate to suicide hotline after celebrity chef's death
After learning chef-turned TV celebrity Anthony Bourdain committed suicide in France on June 8, Jason Wang posted on Facebook to express his condolences, and later decided to donate all his chain restaurants' net sales on that day to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Altogether US$73,509 was collected from the 12 restaurants managed by Wang, CEO of Xi'an Famous Foods, a popular Chinese culinary attraction in New York City, for the hotline, which can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The donation served as drops of water for the movement against suicide, which is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with nearly 45,000 Americans dead from suicides in 2016, twice the number killed by homicide.
As one of the stories of success boosted by the celebrity chef's TV programs, Wang's restaurant was ready to pay back the society, like many immigrant entrepreneurs did to help build the community where they live, work and prosper.
Xi'an Famous Foods has flourished thanks to one of Bourdain's TV episodes and his positive comments 11 years ago, and Wang himself is now almost an icon as news reports poured in to highlight his generosity in charity.
"Today's a day of extreme sadness for us here at Xi'an Famous Foods," wrote Wang on Facebook, adding that "I remember the time in 2007 when Tony (affectionate name for Bourdain) first visited our basement food stall in Flushing for Travel Channel's No Reservations while I was still in college (even though I didn't know who he was at the time). I remember my father preparing interesting off-menu dishes to get his opinion on when he visited our store."
With "humble beginnings," reported CBS NEWS, Xi'an Famous Foods, "founded by Chinese immigrants who had a dream to succeed in America," expanded to 12 locations throughout New York City after Bourdain's visit. Bourdain helped his family start "living the American dream," said Wang.
"Wang himself became a fixture in the culinary world, making Forbes' list of '30 under 30: Food and Wine' in 2014," according to CBS.
Win or lose
As many Chinese-American chefs and restauranteurs are pursuing their dreams of wealth and success in Big Apple, not all of them are as lucky as Wang.
At least eight Chinese restaurants were closed down in the past few weeks, due to sluggish sales in Flushing, Queens. One of them had been serving local residents and tourists with hot spicy food originated in China's southwestern Sichuan province for over two decades.
The mandarin daily newspaper World Journal called it "a domino's fall," citing restauranteurs as saying that medium-priced Chinese food has past its prime, ceding place to avant-garde dining halls and food courts which featured fast and affordable services with no tips charged.
Still, for the foodies in the city, Chinese dining spots are most likely to be found in the three Chinatowns respectively established in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.
According to Chineselikela.com, there are over 50,000 Chinese restaurants in America, with annual sales of over US$21 billion. One tenth of them are based in New York City.
Chineselikela.com said that 93 percent of American adults tried Chinese food once or more, ranking delicacy, nutrition and variety as the reasons to top other cuisines. Media reports also listed well-maintained hygiene as the latest factor making Chinese food widely preferred.
Some 90 percent of the over 500 Chinese restaurants in Brooklyn were graded as A after a city check in May, a ratio much higher than those selling other national dishes.