ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” and Panda Express, America’s favorite Chinese restaurant, are joining together to celebrate Chinese New Year

Broadway World:

ABC‘s “Fresh Off the Boat” and Panda Express, America’s favorite Chinese restaurant, are joining together to celebrate Chinese New Year and encourage viewers and guests alike to join in on the celebration. Panda Express restaurants across the country will display special branded “Fresh Off the Boat” Chinese New Year Posters and table tents featuring the Huangs.

To see how the Huang family celebrates Chinese New Year, viewers can watch “Fresh Off the Boat” when it returns with an all-new episode on Tuesday, February 2 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EST).

Episode:
“Year of the Rat” – The Huangs are getting everything in order to celebrate Chinese New Year with their family in Washington, D.C. But a mix-up with their plane tickets forces them to spend the holiday in Orlando. Scrambling to find other Asians to celebrate with, they stumble upon the Asian-American Association of Orlando, which is hosting a less than authentic interpretation of a Chinese New Year celebration.

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To encourage learning about the history and traditions surrounding Chinese New Year and share ideas to help consumers join the celebration, Panda Express created a special website, CelebrateCNY.com.

The site features an animated video about the 15-day festival, activities for kids and special classroom curriculum for teachers. Other site features include an app that helps visitors send New Year’s greetings through virtual red envelopes, a guide to find your Chinese zodiac sign and information on special in-store offers for February 8, the first day of Chinese New Year.

More than six million students have learned about Chinese New Year through Panda’s education materials since 2007.

Every major player in Silicon Valley, from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, has been going to this Chinese restaurant

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Next Shark (by Melly Lee):

Silicon Valley is known for a multitude of landmarks, including the garages Apple and Google were started in, the Facebook campus, and the IBM Almaden Research Lab. The one landmark, however, that perhaps garners the most universal praise from the best and the brightest of the area is Chinese restaurant Chef Chu’s.
MellyLee-ChefChu-001Started by Lawrence Chu in 1970, Chef Chu’s has been the go-to place for the Bay Area’s tech elite, celebrities and politicians. Tennis superstar Serena Williams, platinum-selling artist Justin Bieber and former Intel CEO Craig Barrett have all frequented Chu’s establishment. The late Apple founder Steve Jobs also used to be a regular before he became a recognizable tech titan.

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He’d come in here as a nobody,” Chu told Mercury News in a 2012 interview. “He’d wait 45 minutes to get a table and all of a sudden he’s on the cover of Time Magazine. I was busy making a living. I didn’t know who he was.”

In the mid-1980s, when then Secretary of State George Shultz needed to hold an emergency meeting with other high-ranking officials in the Reagan administration, he held it at Chef Chu’s.

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Even though he’s been in business for 45 years, the 72-year-old Chu still goes to work with seemingly the same passion and drive he started with. He’s frequently in the kitchen helping the staff and tries greeting every single customer that walks through the door.

Silicon Valley futurist Paul Saffo once said: “No restaurant has had the longevity of Chef Chu’s for either quality of the food or popularity with the valley’s movers and shakers. It’s as vibrant and lively as it’s ever been.”

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Most recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become a regular at Chef Chu’s. Chu tells NextShark: “Mark Zuckerberg comes in here all the time. Him and his wife Priscilla came here last Sunday. Their parents too, they moved from the East Coast.”
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Even with all the celebrity attention, Chef Chu believes in one core philosophy when treating customers: “Whoever comes in here, we should treat them the same. For a simple reason: they all pay the same price. Whether they’re an engineer, doctor, governor.

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Aside from his restaurant, Chu has published three cookbooks, started a catering business, and created his own cooking classes.

His first job was as a busboy at Trader Vic’s, a Polynesian restaurant in San Francisco.

He recounts: “In the restaurant, we worked so hard and I found out that I loved restaurants. It’s very famous as well. I was there; I met all celebrities there. I was a busboy, waiter, bartender. Then I told myself, one day I want to do something like this. Maybe not a busboy, but I want to do something of my own.
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At the time, he was trying to woo his future wife, Ruth Ho, who was then a PhD student at Stanford University. He’d often joke to her that he was also a PhD: poor, hungry and determined. Chu successfully wooed not only his future wife, but also his future father-in-law, who was a successful entrepreneur.

I told the father that I had a dream. I said I want to open fast food Chinese restaurants in America. The father liked me. They all liked me in a sense, but they never asked my education. They only said, ‘This guy is 25 years old and has a dream.’

MellyLee-ChefChu-012It was in 1970 that Chu decided to follow through on his dream of starting his own restaurant, opening his first fast-food Chinese restaurant in a space that used to be a small laundromat between a beauty salon and appliance repair shop.

Six months later, he took over the beauty salon’s space in order to expand his venture into a sit-down restaurant. Three years after that, with money he saved over the years and from an investment from his father-in-law, Chu purchased the entire complex and completely renovated his restaurant, including the installation of a state-of-the-art kitchen.

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Although by then a successful restaurateur, Chu wanted to be a chef and worked tirelessly to learn from the chefs he hired at his restaurant, perfecting his culinary skill through practice and trial and error.

I worked my butt off. I collapsed in my bed every day. I cooked for 20 years in the kitchen.”

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After his father’s restaurant was closed down by the health department, Chu went to college for two semesters to learn how to properly run a restaurant in order to make sure the same fate wouldn’t befall his own restaurant. To this day, Chu takes cleanliness and hygiene at his restaurant as one of his top priorities.

Personal hygiene is very important. That’s 24 hours every second, every minute of the job. When you decorate the plate, everything on the plate should be edible. You cannot just put a flower there because it looks good. Everything on the plate should be edible.”
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Initially, Chu wanted to open a chain of Chinese restaurants all over the country but he eventually decided to just focus on one. At 72, he’s still learning and regularly travels to Asia to discover new culinary secrets.

People always ask me why I have only one restaurant. ‘Why do you work at 72? Why don’t you hire people and open two or three restaurants?’ The type of restaurant that I run is totally different than the type of restaurant that you run. It takes a lot of hard work but ultimately you must be a leader.

You have to have a great team behind you. For them, it is just another job. For me, it is my life. Most people work for me 20 to 30 years and retire. Why? They knew that they could trust me and that I would not let them down and that I was passionate. You have to demonstrate that you are a true leader.

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Chu is not the only successful person in his family. His middle son, Jon M. Chu, is a successful director who has helmed films like “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” and “Step Up 2: The Street.” His other son, Larry Chu Jr., has joined his father in the kitchen and plans to take over the restaurant someday.

Since Larry joined me [it has] allowed me to cut about 50% of the worry.

Most people [say], ‘Chef Chu, you should retire. You have all the money in the world.’ I’m coming here [because] I’m proud of what I do. I’m making history. I believe my philosophy, my method. I trust my instinct. I trust my burning desire that we put 100 percent in the business and don’t stop improving. I don’t say change for the sake of change. Don’t stop advancing. Don’t stop because the world is running, the world is changing.

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Mrs. Pound, a Hong Kong fusion diner hidden behind a Chinese stamp shop front

Gold, Panda, Dragon, Jade, Phoenix… Stats on words used in Chinese restaurant names, by the numbers.

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INTRODUCTION

It is not too bold of an assumption to say we have all eaten at a Chinese restaurant named Golden Dragon or Hunan Garden at some point in our lives. The English names of Chinese restaurants are notoriously unimaginative and often totally reductive. They typically contain one of the following: bland sentiment (Nice Time Cafe), callous boasts (#1, Supreme, Top, Super, etc.), or some amalgam of the following elements: precious metal + prestigious animal + widely popular Chinese food item + powerful leadership role (Jade Empress, Noodle King, Phoenix Palace).

But what can trends in Chinese restaurant naming tell us about Chinese America?

The pre-existing research on this topic is slim and possibly nonexistent (this assertion based on a few half-hearted Google searches performed shortly before publication). I found few Chowhound threads, a Yahoo Answers page and this amazing (and only slightly racist) Chinese restaurant name generator.

This “study” seeks to identify some basic trends in Chinese restaurant naming, then use the findings to fuel a discussion of what drives these trends. DISCLAIMER: This is not a real study. Don’t take it seriously.

METHODOLOGY

Our data comes from my occasional lunch partner David Chan, a Los Angeles accountant and attorney who has eaten at more than 6,300 different Chinese restaurants over the past three decades. Entries begin in the 1980s and are current as of June 20. The bulk of the data comes from Southern California, but Chan has also eaten extensively across the United States and the world. There are 6,317 restaurants included in this “analysis.”

Relevant terms for “analysis” were established by scrolling repeatedly through this list in Excel and writing down any commonly occurring terms that I could identify before my eyes began to water. The spreadsheet was also uploaded into Google Refine, a data-cleaning and analysis tool that can cluster like terms and count commonly occurring words. Using the filters, I counted whatever search terms occurred to me over the course of two Saturday afternoons and one Sunday night.

The most commonly occurring terms are gathered for “analysis” below (discussion follows infographic).

RESULTS

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DISCUSSION

As expected, our results show that Chinese restaurant names are uncommonly repetitive. Some surprising results: the most commonly occurring restaurant name was “China Express.” Dragons are more popular than pandas. The use of the word Oriental seems to have declined as society places higher value on political correctness.

What produces this naming monotony? My first thought is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and also the most brazen form of competition. Chinese restaurant owners are notoriously cutthroat. A $5.95 lunch special is usually followed by a $5.75 lunch special across the street, and in the same vein, a 101 Noodle Express is one-upped by a 102 Noodles Town, and a Hunan Garden is easily topped by #1 Hunan Garden. Perhaps the repetition in names is just an outgrowth of that competition. Brand-name recognition is often worth the copyright lawsuit, as evinced by the number of restaurants calling themselves Panda Express who are not officially licensed franchises of the national chain.

My next theory is that there is a demographic of Chinese-restaurant owners who really don’t care what their English restaurant names are — those who are comfortably situated in a majority-Chinese community.

Many cities in the San Gabriel Valley require a certain amount of English on the storefront sign. These laws are oftentimes relics from the 1980s and 1990s, when politicians besieged by waves of Asian immigration tried to use municipal code to hold back the tidal wave of demographic change. Perhaps the half-considered English names are a kiss-off to these laws. If you’re catering to a largely Chinese clientele, your English name goes unused. It’s just another box to check off on the business-permit application. Names with prestigious acronyms like NBC, ABC, CBS, in addition to piggybacking on brand-name recognition, have the added benefit of being short — which means fewer letters to purchase.

But perhaps the repetition in naming says more about us than it does about Chinese restaurateurs. Chinese restaurants have to use English words that the average American can associate with Chinese food or culture. That makes for a depressingly small pool of applicable themes and words, likely fueled by pop-culture tropes, stereotypes and maybe a TNT replay of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon if we’re lucky. Perhaps the monotony in Chinese restaurant naming just reflects how impoverished the knowledge of Chinese culture is here.

My mother’s favorite restaurant, for example, is Nice Time Cafe in Monterey Park, a Taiwanese eatery that has a decent gua bao and and $3.95 che ga mi noodle that she loves for obvious reasons. She introduced me to the place, and I’d never been inside because the name was so bland and boring. I’d literally roll my eyes as I walked by. But the Chinese name of Nice Time Cafe, my mom tells me, is hao nian dong, a Taiwanese phrase (literal translation of 好年冬: Good Year Winter) that idiomatically means gratitude for a good year and a good harvest.

Maybe instead of rolling my eyes at “Happy China Cafe” or snorting at “Golden Chopsticks Palace,” I should just learn to read more Chinese.

Is Panda Express authentic Chinese Food?

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 Audrey Magazine:

I was in high school when I first started to hate Panda Express.

Before then, I didn’t give much thought to Panda Express. After all, it was Chinese food and, at the time, I didn’t like any food that was non-American. Blame it on my teenage rebellious phase, but Chinese, Japanese and other Asian foods were for my parents and therefore uncool.

Thankfully, sanity prevailed and I started embracing all different types of Asian and non-American food. Despite this, I still thumbed my nose down at Panda Express. “It’s not authentic,” I complained to my parents, like I had any authority on what authentic Chinese-ness was supposed to be like. Me, the Chinese-Indonesian American girl who dropped out of Chinese school and got the “banana” insult more times than I could count, deciding what was authentically Chinese? Please.

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My parents thought I was ridiculous and told me so as they continued to get Panda Express takeout biweekly. My dad, the guy who liked Chinese food so much that he went to the only Chinese restaurant in Italy for his honeymoon trip, loving Panda Express? Are you kidding me? But a funny thing happened over time. As I started eating Panda Express more and more, I started really enjoying it.

And that brings me to this Buzzfeed video making its way around the internet:

If you look at the YouTube comments, a lot of people are hating on the younger kids who turn their noses up at Panda Express, especially when contrasted with the older generations who seem to enjoy the taste of Panda Express and may even find it authentic.

Nonetheless, I found myself sympathizing with the younger generation who hadn’t had time to let the food grow on them. Maybe, like me, they saw Panda Express as a reminder of their failures to be “fully” Chinese as part of the Chinese American label. Or maybe I’m just projecting.

Panda Express was founded in 1973 by a father-son Chinese American duo from Pasadena who started off with a single restaurant called Panda Inn. When I discovered this, I stopped saying ‘Panda Express is fine if you just pretend it’s American food.’

I finally acknowledged it for what it is: true Chinese American fast food.

 

Harvard business professor declares war on family-run Chinese restaurant that overcharged him $4

 

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UPDATE: This guy has done this before with another restaurant!

FoodBeast/Next Shark:

Things we’ve all experienced at a Chinese restaurant: being inexplicably yelled at by the restaurant’s servers/owners/cooks, finding new species of insects in your food and drinks, and being overcharged. When any of those things happen, you’re supposed to freak out, make a scene and then come back for more MSG later when you think they forgot you were that one bun dan who freaked out and made a scene.

Well, apparently, Harvard Business School associate professor Ben Edelman didn’t get the memo on how to act. After ordering $53.35 worth of takeout at Sichuan Garden in Boston’s Brookline Village, Edelman found that he had been accidentally overcharged a whopping $4 upon his arrival home, according to Boston.com. Edelman then put his Harvard degrees to work against the business in a series of righteous emails with Ran Duan, whose parents founded Sichuan Garden.

Read Edelman’s emails below, wherein he tries to squeeze the restaurant out of $12 for overcharging him $4, and is just a general, total and complete fuckface. Duan, meanwhile, gets an A+ for not pulling a Bac Nguyen.
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