How ‘High Chef’ Shirley Chung pivoted enterprise, fights anti-Asian hate

Shirley Chung prepares a dish at Michael Muller’s HEAVEN presented by The Art of Elysium on January 5, 2019 in Los Angeles.

Phillip Faraone | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

When the pandemic hit, chef and reality TV star Shirley Chung quickly turned her restaurant business to deal with the crisis.

Dealing with anti-Asian hatred was a different matter.

When she heard of the alarm racist incidents and hate crimes that have recently happened across the country, including the Killing six women Chung, who was of Asian descent near Atlanta in March, felt the need to speak up.

“Everything that happened was so close to our hearts,” said the 44-year-old about herself and the cooking community in Los Angeles.

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Chung, who was a finalist on Bravo’s reality show “Top chef, “also endured incidents at the Culver City, California restaurant, Mrs. Chi Cafethat she owns along with her husband. Her non-regular guests began to question cleanliness despite seeing tables in front of them disinfected. The back door was graffiti. In response, Chung added additional cleaning services and installed security cameras to keep their customers and employees safe.

More recently, someone stole a to-go order straight from the counter, threatened her husband Jimmy Lee, and shouted racist statements.

“It made me want to get louder and really share my experience,” said Chung, who was born in Beijing and immigrated to the United States at the age of 17.

While the couple’s parents wanted them to keep quiet out of fear for their safety, Chung said noise will draw attention to the plight of Asia-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and the impact of hatred on their businesses.

“We don’t want to be silent anymore,” she said. “We want to lead by example and let our parents see that it’s okay. Now is our time.”

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When Covid first met, Chung was quick to make adjustments to her business.

“That was the only way to survive,” she said.

When it reopened, she started shipping her frozen dumplings again to Goldbelly, a gourmet grocery company. Her orders tripled within the first week and she knew she was up to something. She has expanded her offering and now has a full-fledged business. She also started doing digital cooking demonstrations.

While trying to find solutions, she started speaking to other local chefs to exchange ideas.

“Through these conversations, I realized that many AAPI owners and chefs did not have access to many things that ‘mainstream’ restaurants and chefs are used to, from government grants and updated guidelines to social media platforms to promote their business, “said Chung. Author of “Chinese heritage cooking from my American cuisine. “

She began helping her AAPI business owners by sharing new guidelines and suggesting that they join the Independent Restaurant Coalition. She also helped lesser-known restaurants get onto platforms like Goldbelly to increase their income, she said.

In March, Chung participated in the LA Food Gang’s “Let’s Eat Together” fundraiser, which raised nearly $ 60,000 for difficult AAPI restaurants.

This Sunday, Chung will also be part of a week-long event called Pop Off LAwhere select Los Angeles restaurants collaborate with unique creations. Part of the proceeds will go to charitable organizations From her platewho will then hire struggling Asian restaurants to prepare meals for AAPI organizations.

Hopeful for the future