During the COVID-19 pandemic, takeout has become an essential rather than a luxury.
Of course, if your favorite place to dine isn’t close to where you live, that usually puts the brakes on a delivery … Unless there’s a generous chef who’s willing to go the extra mile – about 530 of them – to make sure. that a loyal customer can enjoy their favorite food once again.
When Baltimore restaurant owner Steve Chu learned that one of his longtime customers (whose name has been withheld for privacy reasons) was losing the battle with cancer, instead of sharing his recipe. Favorite dish with his son-in-law’s Brandon Jones. Upon request, the chef instead volunteered to make the six-hour trip to Vermont to cook it for her in person.
The woman’s daughter, Rina, knows how much broccoli tempura from Chu’s Ekiben Asian-fusion restaurant means to her mother. Even though her mother was joking, the 72-year-old made sure to place her take out order for Rina and Brandon’s next visit.
“She always told us, ‘When I’m on my deathbed, I want to eat that broccoli,'” Rina said in an interview with The Washington Post. “As a matter of fact, when I was packing on Friday to drive to Vermont, I called my mom to see if she wanted us to bring something special and she joked, ‘Broccoli tempura!'”
After confirming his plans with Rina and Brandon, Chu provisioned his truck, and with business partner Ephrem Abebe and restaurant worker Joe Anonuevo in tow, the three men made the trip to Vermont. The next morning, Chu and his team camped out in the parking lot of their unsuspecting client’s condo, where they proceeded to fire up the grill and start cooking.
When the woman opened the door and saw the familiar figure of Chu standing there with a takeout order, she could hardly believe her eyes. It was almost impossible for her to imagine that he would be willing to travel from Baltimore to Vermont just to cook her a meal.
But to Chu, the gesture did not seem far-fetched at all. Unlike many other restaurants, thanks to his devoted clientele, Ekiben was able to overcome the pandemic without relative ease. Knowing how lucky he was, Chu felt that it was okay to return some of the goodness that he had been fortunate to receive.
Chu recognized his longtime client the moment he saw her too. As customers come and go, he says she made a lasting impression, not only by the way she enjoyed her cooking, but also by praising the restaurant staff for the cuisine.
Their mission accomplished, Chu and his team rejected an offer to stay for dinner and returned to Baltimore, also refusing to accept any payment for their time and trouble. Rina Jones reported that Chu’s generosity left her and her mother with tears of gratitude, and enough leftovers for lunch the next day.
After a grateful Brandon Jones reported the events on Facebook, his post quickly filled with thousands of likes, including one from Baltimore City Council Member Zeke Cohen, who said, “I always point to Ekiben as a business that always models respect for the community and treats people with love. Also, their food is amazing! Read this, eat your tofu nuggets, and try not to cry! “
While Chu says he is enjoying a rebound in business since the details of the long-distance delivery became known, his reason for reaching out had nothing to do with gaining glory.
“She is a lovely lady, who has showered us with love in our restaurant for years,” he told The Washington Post, adding that it was an honor to help fulfill the family’s wishes. “It was a powerful experience and I am happy that we were able to make it happen.”
And that’s the best takeout we’ve had in a long time.
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