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Chinese Restaurants Are Closing. That’s a Good Thing, the Owners Say.

来源:纽约时报    2019-12-26 12:19

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        KINGSTON, N.Y. — More than 40 years after buying Eng’s, a Chinese-American restaurant in the Hudson Valley, Tom Sit is reluctantly considering retirement.        纽约金斯顿——买下哈德逊谷的中餐馆Eng’s 40多年后,汤姆·薛(Tom Sit)终于不情愿地开始考虑退休了。
        For much of his life, Mr. Sit has worked here seven days a week, 12 hours a day. He cooks in the same kitchen where he worked as a young immigrant from China. He parks in the same lot where he’d take breaks and read his wife’s letters, sent from Montreal while they courted by post in the late 1970s. He seats his regulars at the same tables where his three daughters did homework.        在人生的大部分时间里,薛先生每周七天、每天12个小时在这里工作。自年轻时从中国移民美国以来,他一直在这个厨房做饭。他的车泊在同一个停车场,小憩的时候,他曾在那里读未婚妻从蒙特利尔的来信,那是20世纪70年代末,他们还在远距离地谈恋爱。若是熟客上门,他会让他们坐在三个女儿曾经做作业的那张桌子。
        Two years ago, at the insistence of his wife, Faye Lee Sit, he started taking off one day a week. Still, it’s not sustainable. He’s 76, and they’re going to be grandparents soon. Working 80 hours a week is just too hard. But his grown daughters, who have college degrees and well-paying jobs, don’t intend to take over.        两年前,在妻子费伊·李·薛(Faye Lee Sit)的坚持下,他开始每周休假一天。尽管如此,他也不可能永远干下去。他76岁了,而且他们很快就要当外祖父母了。每周工作80个小时太辛苦。但已经成年的女儿们都有大学学位和高薪工作,她们无意接手餐馆。
        Across the country, owners of Chinese-American restaurants like Eng’s are ready to retire but have no one to pass the business to. Their children, educated and raised in America, are pursuing professional careers that do not demand the same grueling labor as food service.        在美国各地,像Eng’s这样的中餐馆的老板们都在准备退休,但后继乏人。他们的子女在美国长大,接受了高等教育,从事的职业不需要像食品服务业这样累人的劳动。
        According to new data from the restaurant reviewing website Yelp, the share of Chinese restaurants in the top 20 metropolitan areas has been consistently falling. Five years ago, an average of 7.3 percent of all restaurants in these areas were Chinese, compared with 6.5 percent today. That reflects 1,200 fewer Chinese restaurants at a time when these 20 places added more than 15,000 restaurants over all.        据餐馆点评网站Yelp的最新数据,美国前20大城市的中餐馆数量一直在下降。五年前,这些城市的所有餐馆中平均7.3%是中餐馆,而现在只有6.5%。这意味着,在这20个城市总共增加了1.5万多家餐馆的同时,中餐馆却减少了1200家。
        Even in San Francisco, home to the oldest Chinatown in the United States, the share of Chinese restaurants shrank to 8.8 percent from 10 percent.        即使在旧金山,这个美国最古老的唐人街所在地,中餐馆的比例已从10%下降到了8.8%。
        It doesn’t seem that interest in the cuisine has faltered. On Yelp, the average share of page views of Chinese restaurants hasn’t declined, nor has the average rating.        人们对中餐的兴趣似乎并没有减退。在Yelp上,中餐馆的平均浏览量并没有下降,平均评分也没有下降。
        And at the same time, the percentages of Indian, Korean and Vietnamese restaurants — many of which were also owned and operated by immigrants from Asian countries — are holding steady or increasing nationwide.        与此同时,印度餐馆、韩国料理和越南餐馆的比例——其中许多也由亚洲国家的移民拥有和经营——在全美范围内保持稳定或略有增长。
        The restaurant business has always been tough, and rising rents and delivery apps haven’t helped. Tightening regulations on immigration and accounting have also made it harder for cash-based restaurants to do business.        餐饮行业一直很难做,不断上涨的房租和外卖应用软件令雪上加霜。对移民的收紧以及对会计的严格规定,也使这些依赖现金交易的餐馆更难以为继。
        But those are not Chinese-restaurant-specific factors, and do not explain the wave of closings. Instead, a big reason seems to be the economic mobility of the second generation.        但这些都不是中餐馆特有的困难,无法解释中餐馆关闭的潮流。相反,一个很大的原因似乎是第二代华人的经济流动性。
        “It’s a success that these restaurants are closing,” said Jennifer 8. Lee, a former New York Times journalist who wrote of the rise of Chinese restaurants in her book “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles” and produced a documentary, “The Search for General Tso.” “These people came to cook so their children wouldn’t have to, and now their children don’t have to.”        “中餐馆的关门趋势,反映出一段成功的故事,”珍妮弗·8·李(Jennifer 8. Lee)说,她曾是《纽约时报》记者,曾著书《幸运饼干编年史》(The Fortune Cookie Chronicles)讲述中餐馆在美国的兴起,还制作了一部名为《寻找左宗棠》(The Search for General Tso)的纪录片。“这些人在美国落脚后开餐馆,为的是后代不用干这个,现在他们的子女都不以此为生。”
        The retirements of the restaurant owners also reflect the history of Chinese immigration to the United States. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act halted what had been a steady rise in people coming from China. It was not revoked until 1943, and large-scale immigration resumed only after 1965, when other race-targeting quotas were abolished.        中餐馆老板的退休也折射出华人移民美国的历史。1882年的《排华法案》(Chinese Exclusion Act)阻止了中国移民的稳步增长。这个法案直到1943年才被撤销,其他针对族裔的配额在1965年被废除后,大规模的移民才得以恢复。
        China’s Cultural Revolution, an often violent social and political upheaval that started in 1966, prompted many young people to emigrate to the United States, a country that projected an image of freedom and economic possibility.        中国的文化大革命始于1966年,这场充满暴力的社会和政治动荡促使许多年轻人逃离中国,移民到给人以自由和经济可能性印象的美国。
        Mr. Sit left Guangzhou, in southern China, in 1968. He hiked, climbed and swam his way to Hong Kong, filling his pants with pine cones as an improvised flotation device.        薛先生于1968年离开了中国南方城市广州。他一路翻山越岭,最后靠游泳来到香港,他在裤腿里塞满松果,权当漂浮装置。
        “There was just no future,” he said. “The only way to get freedom and to get a good job was to go to Hong Kong.”        “中国那时没有未来,”他说。“获得自由和找到好工作的唯一途径就是去香港。”
        In 1974, he immigrated to the United States and started working at Eng’s, which opened in 1927. Although he had never worked in a restaurant, the heat from the woks was much less intense than what he experienced at a Hong Kong plastics factory where he had worked.        1974年,他移民美国后开始在Eng’s工作,这家中餐馆创办于1927年。尽管他从未在餐馆工作过,但炒菜锅的灼热远不及他在香港一家塑料厂工作时所经历的。
        Unlike Mr. Sit, some immigrants had been chefs in China. They served Hunan and Cantonese foods on linen tablecloths to bejeweled, curious diners at places like Shun Lee Palace in New York.        与薛先生不同的是,有些移民在中国当过厨师。在纽约顺利宫餐馆(Shun Lee Palace)这样的地方,他们烹饪的湘菜和粤菜能端上铺着亚麻桌布的餐桌,为佩戴珠宝的好奇食客享用。
        “There was the golden age of Chinese cooking in America, starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s,” said Ed Schoenfeld, a restaurateur and chef who has worked in Chinese restaurants since the ’70s. “We started getting regional practitioners of fine regional cuisine to come to this country and do their thing.”        “美国曾有过一个中餐烹饪的黄金时代,那是在20世纪60年代末70年代初,”餐馆老板兼厨师艾德·舍恩菲尔德(Ed Schoenfeld)说,他自20世纪70年代起就一直在中餐馆工作。“从那时开始,我们有了中国地方菜系的从业者来美国做他们的菜。”
        Mostly, though, the newly minted chefs cooked quickly and cheaply. They adapted their method of cooking to American tastes, developing dishes like beef chow fun, fortune cookies and egg drop soup, often brought home in the signature takeout containers.        不过,大多数情况下,新掌勺的厨师靠的是快速和价格便宜的烹饪。他们根据美国人的口味作出调整,推出了干炒牛河、幸运饼干和蛋花汤等菜肴,人们通常把这些菜装在中餐特有的外卖盒里带回家吃。
        “They were not precious,” Ms. Lee said. “These people did not come to be chefs; they came to be immigrants, and cooking was the way they made a living.”        “这些菜不娇贵,”李女士说。“这些人来美国不是为了当厨师;他们是移民,烹饪只是他们谋生的方法。”
        Other immigrant groups follow a similar pattern. With social mobility and inclusion in more mainstream parts of the economy, the children of immigrants are less likely than their parents to own their own businesses.        其他移民群体也有类似的经历。移民子女因社会流动性和包容性进入更主流的经济领域后,他们拥有自己生意的可能性比父母的要低。
        “In some ways, the children are regaining the status of the first generation that they have lost while migrating,” said Jennifer Lee, a professor of sociology at Columbia University and co-author of “The Asian American Achievement Paradox.” (She is not related to Jennifer 8. Lee.) “The goal has never been to continue those businesses.”        “从某种意义上来说,这些子女在恢复父母作为第一代移民在其间失去的地位,”哥伦比亚大学社会学教授珍妮弗·李(Jennifer Lee)说,她是《亚裔美国人成就悖论》(The Asian American Achievement Paradox)的合著者(与Jennifer 8. Lee没有血缘关系)。“他们的目标从来都不是继承父业。”
        When they do become entrepreneurs, these children tend to work in industries like tech or consulting, rather than in food service or nail salons.        如果他们成为了企业家的话,子女往往在技术或咨询等行业,而不是在食品服务或美甲沙龙工作。
        In the past decade, some members of the second generation have also chosen to take charge of family restaurants. Nom Wah Tea Parlor, a New York dim sum restaurant that opened in 1920, has stayed a family business: first run by the Choy family, then the Tangs.        不过,在过去十年里,第二代中的个别人还是选择了接管家庭餐馆。1920年开业的纽约早茶馆南华茶室(Nom Wah Tea Parlor)一直是家庭生意:先由蔡家,后是邓家经营。
        The 41-year-old owner, Wilson Tang, left a career in finance to succeed his uncle in 2011. Initially, his parents balked at his decision.        南华茶室现在的老板是41岁的邓伟,他在2011年离开了金融业,接手了叔叔的生意。起初,他的父母不赞成他的这个决定。
        “As immigrants, it’s the only thing you can do; if it’s not restaurants, it’s a laundromat,” Mr. Tang said. “For me to choose to go back to owning a restaurant? That was tough for them to accept.”        “作为移民,你只能干这行;如果不是开餐馆,就是自助洗衣店,”邓伟说。“我回过头来选择开餐馆?这让他们很难接受。”
        Since then, Nom Wah has expanded: to another Manhattan location, to Philadelphia and to Shenzhen, China. On any given night, groups of guests wait for a table outside the Chinatown location for up to an hour, huddled in the bend of Doyers Street.        自他接手以来,南华茶室开始了扩张:除了在曼哈顿开了另一家分店外,还在费城以及深圳开了分店。每天晚上,成群结队的客人挤在坐落于宰也街(Doyers Street)拐角的这家唐人街本店门外,要等位一个小时才能吃上。
        “I had this unique opportunity to preserve something that was from old New York,” he said. “I still work extremely hard. But I also know how to use marketing tools, like the internet.”        “我有这样一个独一无二的机会,来保存老纽约的一些东西,”他说。“我仍在非常努力地工作。但我也知道如何使用营销工具,比如互联网。”
        In a parallel effort, the team behind Junzi Kitchen, a fast-casual Chinese restaurant chain based in New York, recently raised $5 million to research and buy places like Eng’s, rebranding them with Junzi’s modern take on the cuisine.        还有另一种让中餐馆继续下去的努力,总部设在纽约的中式休闲快餐连锁店君子食堂(Junzi Kitchen)背后的团队最近筹集到了500万美元,用于研究和收购像Eng’s这样的餐馆,将它们重塑为“君子”品牌下的现代中餐馆。
        “They are still going to have their usual beloved Chinese takeout services, but we are providing an upgraded version of that,” said Yong Zhao, the founder and chief executive.        “它们将继续提供通常受人喜爱的中餐外卖服务,但我们正在升级这种服务的版本,”君子创始人兼首席执行官赵勇说。
        But family-run Chinese restaurants are typically not being passed to the next generation. Some may close up shop, sell their businesses to other first-generation immigrants or move on and see their former storefronts become something else entirely.        但家庭经营的中餐馆如今通常不会传给下一代。有些餐馆可能会关闭,把生意卖给其他的第一代移民,或开始新生,让以前的地方变成完全不同的东西。
        Mr. Sit has not yet found the right person to run the restaurant, and has no immediate plans to close. “To take over Eng’s, you have to keep the heart in Eng’s,” he said. “You need to have a loyalty to the business, not just someone who thinks, ‘I’ll make one year, two years of money, I don’t care.’”        薛先生还没有找到经营餐馆的合适人选,目前也没有立刻关门的计划。“接管Eng’s的人必须对它全心全意,”他说。“需要那种忠诚生意的人,而不是那种‘我赚它一两年再说’的人。”
        Ms. Sit feels more ready to retire than her husband. Normally talkative, he can be evasive whenever the family tries to bring up a successor.        薛女士比丈夫更愿意退休。虽然他通常健谈,但每当家人试图提起餐馆继承人的话题是,他总是闪烁其词。
        “They’ll have to work hard,” she said, her eyes sparkling as she teased her husband, “like Tom Sit. Maybe then he’ll let them take over.”        “他们一定要是像汤姆·薛那样努力干活的人,”她神采飞扬地揶揄丈夫说。“也许那时他会让他们接手餐馆。”
        If he ever actually does hand Eng’s to someone else, Mr. Sit will miss his customers, and miss running an operation.        如果他真把Eng’s交给别人的话,薛先生会想念他的客人,想念经营这个餐馆的日子。
        But he is proud of what he built. He is proud that his daughters, American-born educated professionals, are working jobs they have chosen, jobs they love.        但他对自己的成就感到自豪。他为女儿们自豪,她们在美国出生,是受过教育的专业人士,正在从事自己选择的、喜欢的工作。
        “I hoped they have a better life than me,” he said. “A good life. And they do.”        “我希望她们的生活比我好,”他说。“过上好的生活。她们做到了。”

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