Zhu Rong in her Chelsea restaurant’s kitchen.
CHONGQING-BORN ZHU RONG runs 12 restaurants at various levels of capacity and distress in China and the U.S.—two of them here in New York (the Hao Noodle branches in Chelsea and Greenwich Village) and another ten in major cities like Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Beijing. We sat down with her recently in the darkened, deserted dining room of Hao Noodle and Tea on lower Sixth Avenue to get her unique perspective on the different approaches to the COVID calamity in China and New York City. She talked about how her businesses in both countries have been affected (hint: Things are an awful lot better right now back home), how the local governments in different cities have gone about dealing (or not dealing) with fraught issues like testing and contact tracing, and how when it comes to the most fraught issue of all for the restaurant community—indoor dining—a certain mayor of a certain great American city didn’t seem to care at all.
So are your restaurants up and running in China? Yes, all of them are busy again, no masks, no distancing, and only Beijing is below the kind of capacity we were doing before the government shut everybody down in late January. I have ten restaurants in China—two in Hangzhou, a large city west of Shanghai; six in Shanghai itself; and two in Beijing. We shut them all down on January 28 on government orders, about a week after the Wuhan lockdown. I was in Beijing visiting family for the Chinese New Year, and we thought the government was being a little rash at the time. I flew back to New York three days later. I thought New York was going to be safe!
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September 14 - 27, 2020