Grace Young Is Helping Chinatowns Across The US With Julia Child Award Grant

Grace Young has seen the Chinatown neighborhoods she loves and depends on disappearing over the past few years, and she knew she needed to help. Chinatowns in the United States have been in dire straits since the pandemic hit, with xenophobia around the COVID-19 virus driving down their customer base and a wave of anti-Asian attacks keeping regulars from venturing out for meals at night due to fears of violence (via Slate). 

This is compounded by the fact that many business owners lack access to technology or do not speak fluent English, making it harder for them to take advantage of government aid programs. All this means Chinatowns were hit even harder than the already beleaguered service sector, with LAist reporting that more than 60% of Asian-American businesses in California said they experienced large negative effects from the pandemic, almost double the number reported by other groups.

Grace Young is an award-winning chef and cookbook author who has been dubbed "the accidental voice of Chinatown." As she told PBS, when the pandemic devastated the New York City neighborhood, she realized she had been taking this special place where she would shop and eat for granted. She knew an advocate was needed to bring attention to the plight of these business owners and hopefully save these endangered neighborhoods with their long-running legacy shops from being wiped out. Thankfully, a recent gift from the Julia Child Foundation will aid in the cause.

Helping Chinatowns recover and feed those in need

In a press release shared with Tasting Table, the Julia Child Foundation says its Julia Child Award "recognizes an individual (or team) who has made a profound and significant difference in the way America cooks, eats, and drinks." This year, the organization has chosen to honor Grace Young for her advocacy efforts to save historic Chinatowns. According to the organization, Young will receive $50,000 to further her efforts in preserving Chinese culinary traditions through her work as both an author and activist. It's a fitting full-circle tribute as Young credits her early interest in cooking and exploring her culture's cuisine to watching Julia Child when she was young.

Young's own statement says the money "has been allocated to five Chinatowns in San Francisco, Oakland, Honolulu, Boston, and New York." The grant will be used to pay one or two restaurants in each neighborhood to prepare meals for locals, including seniors and low-income residents, helping these businesses get back on their feet while supporting vulnerable populations. It's always inspiring to see chefs giving back to the communities that did so much for them, and of course you can help out too by donating to some of the organizations Young partners with like Welcome to Chinatown in New York, or by patronizing restaurants if your city has a local Chinatown. It's always nice when doing the right thing can be delicious at the same time.