The migration of Chinese immigrants into the United States has positively affected the Chinese-American experience for many people. New York, itself, has offered several locations, ethnicities, and opportunities to fulfill these expectations. Chinatown is the living example of how people have gained exposure and fused their cultures. As a result of Chinese and non-Chinese people migrating into and out of the area, such changes required local businesses/restaurants to adapt and create a new agenda to prosper.
The Jing Fong restaurant served to bring two cultures together from a transnational point of view. This indicates the authentic Chinese food colliding with American food in order to raise this national food boundary. Since American and Chinese cultures are extremely different, it is interesting to see how easy it was to mix both. It led to many American people loving not only their version of Chinese food, but also the original Chinese food. The Jing Fong restaurant benefited from this through the great business and reviews they received from all different groups of people.
The restaurant was founded in 1978. This is a significant year because it was when the People’s Republic of China lifted migration restrictions. This resulted in roughly 300,000 Chinese immigrants coming into the United States. And by 1990 the numbers doubled to about 536,000. These statistics foreshadow the jobs, businesses, and lifestyles they would have to adopt as means of “survival of the fittest”. Most immigrant groups stick together in order to maintain a stable/comfortable transition into a new country. This meant Chinese immigrants would move into the US and form large groups in different areas of the country. Ultimately, this resulted in Chinatown becoming one of the most well-known parts of New York City.
The 1970’s time period was not only a time of effortless immigration, but it was also a time of hardship and distress for the restaurant and the local neighborhood. Chinese gangs and violence ran wild through Chinatown in the 1970’s. Financial troubles were just as hard to get rid of, too. As the restaurant neared bankruptcy, Shui Ling Lam, the janitor, collected enough shares to potentially own the business (He is also the current owner of the business). It wasn’t until 1993 that the business started to look up. From this point on, huge changes and renovations would be made to make the small, underestimated restaurant a flourishing business.
Obviously Chinatown has been known to host the largest ethnic Chinese population. However, as time changes, the Chinese population does fluctuate. There are time periods when there are more non-Chinese people living in Chinatown than Chinese people. But these fluctuations balance themselves out as Chinatown offers several businesses and restaurants that give people the best of both worlds. Nonetheless, with continuous changing environments and groups of people, the Jing Fong restaurant satisfies everyone.
The Jing Fong restaurant doesn’t deny any person or culture the opportunity to experience the authentic Chinese and American Chinese food. This restaurant has created a strong sense of strategy and individuality as it opened two doors for opportunity. “The “old guard” of Chinese people fills the restaurant Monday through Friday… On the weekend there’s always a wait, a multicultural, multi-generation scrum jockeying for tables and baskets of har gow.” (Healy, Page 1) This statement emphasizes the restaurant’s ability to attract and serve anybody and everybody. So many different people enjoy the chance to spend their money on an inexpensive, yet luxurious meal and setting. This business did not have a target audience as many others do, which gives it so much authenticity like the Chinese food it serves. Not only would people be able to share in this extraordinary experience, but the restaurant would fulfill its dreams of having a powerful business that satisfies all parties.
The Jing Fong may be a very successful restaurant, but it has other challenges other than financial problems. “…maybe a concession to the fact that young New Yorkers will just flock to anything that vaguely resembles “brunch.” I wondered if those people were a threat to some fundamental element of Jing Fong’s success, or the authenticity of the food it serves.” (Healy, Page 1) This statement is very interesting to think about because as more and more people (who are just interested in something to eat) submerse themselves in the restaurant, it turns into nothing more than “food” in their minds. And although this holds significance over the value of the authentic Chinese food, different people still get a taste of the other side. The exposure counts for more than the experience in this case. It is good to try something a little before becoming fully infatuated with it. Because once someone has tried the restaurant’s food, nothing but positive comments and reviews come from it. Even if someone doesn’t necessarily love the food, they still tried an authentic dish that has been made for generations. Plus, there are so many dishes, the possibilities are endless. “Be open-minded. She suggests trying a little bit of everything. No, you might not love the taste or consistency of chicken feet, but you might love the next dish.” (Li, Page 1)
This restaurant is seen as a parallel to the Italian-American catering hall, which not only brings two distinct cultures together, but also brings families together. Family gatherings and celebrations are huge events that make the restaurant even more of an attractive success. Since the room is so big and it seats 800 people, it is extremely crowded and sometimes chaotic. However, people have said that once the language barrier is no longer a problem, the restaurant is an amazing and excellent place to admire the authentic Chinese.
Chinatown symbolizes a transnational city and the Jing Fong restaurant symbolizes a transnational compromise in the restaurant industry. Despite the obvious difference in culture, history, and foods, the Jing Fong restaurant managed to merge China and America into one. It represents the strong sense of identity and the rending of cultural barriers. Immigration plays a huge role in the transnational restaurant as it demonstrates what is being offered and who it is being offered to. In this way, it is easy to see how the changing ethnicities in the area affect a business. And if other local businesses can learn anything from this, it is to adopt a transnational business just like the Jing Fong restaurant. Because in this way, businesses not only offer a unique, diverse experience, but it can also avoid bankruptcy.
Healy, Ryan. “Inside New York’s Biggest Chinese Restaurant.” Lucky Peach. Lucky Peach, 08 June 2016. Web. 16 May 2017.
Li, Sophia. “How to Eat Dim Sum for Chinese New Year With Supermodel Liu Wen.” Vogue. Vogue, 31 Jan. 2017. Web. 16 May 2017
“New York Chinatown History.” New York. New York Chinatown, n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.