Chicago restaurateur Jackson Chiu had the challenge of opening a new restaurant, 312 Fish Market, during the pandemic, but that didn't stop him from also carrying out his mission of feeding seniors in his local community.
Chiu grew up and went to school in the city's Chinatown and told TODAY Food that since his sushi restaurant opened three months ago, he's been delivering special meals to the older members of the community every Monday.
Chiu and his crew, with help from the Chicago Police Department, make deliveries to two buildings in the neighborhood each week. Chiu said the seniors recognize the friendly faces from his restaurant and have been appreciative of the gesture.
"I grew up here and went to school here, so giving back, it’s important to me," Chiu told TODAY Food. "It’s something I think I’m responsible for."
Chiu said that the Chinatown community is a small one where everyone knows each other's names, and he delighted in seeing the seniors outside exercising on the warmer days. But that stopped during the pandemic.
"They are trapped in these senior buildings," Chiu said. "Many of them have no family. It's important for them to see that someone that actually cares about them."
Chiu's been feeding two buildings for approximately three months now, and he plans to do it for an entire year. "Mondays are a good time. It's the first day of the week, so why not start it out with a kick?" he said. He tries to be sensitive to the seniors' needs, preparing foods they can easily chew such as California rolls.
"Times change, but you need to appreciate where you came from. The seniors are our backbone. And it
Chiu and his partner are paying for their efforts out of their own pockets. And while he appreciates the offers of donations, he won't accept any funds.
"A thank you is great," he said. "We are showing an example throughout the entire country. There’s a lot of small business owners that should learn to give back, because when you’re gone, the money is gone too."
Chiu said he had the the idea to feel local seniors before the recent increase in anti-Asian violence across the U.S.
"I'm a local person and a father," he said. "I grew up here, and my kids and my friends' kids are growing up here. When you do good deeds, you set an example. I don't want to stop."
For Chiu, the project isn't just about making great food. It's also about recognizing the history of Chinatown.
"The buildings here are hundreds of years old," he said. "Times change, but you need to appreciate where you came from. The seniors are our backbone. And it's always great to see a grandma walking around with a smile."