What started as a single dinner to raise awareness of violence against the Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has ballooned into a major, DC-based anti-racism campaign with big-name contributors and national potential.
Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate, which was spearheaded by Moon Rabbit chef Kevin Tien along with Tim Ma (Lucky Danger), Erik Bruner-Yang of Maketto, restaurateur Lydia Chang, and others, launched in early March. The initial vision was a weekly takeout dinner series through May that doubles as a fundraiser for Stop AAPI Hate, a national nonprofit organization that tracks and addresses AAPI discrimination in the pandemic. Each week, five chefs contribute dishes for a family-style meal ($150 for two), and proceeds are donated. Their first event on March 25 at Q by Peter Chang sold out, but future takeout dinners are still available. Today, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration donated $10,000 to the fledging organization—a boost Tien and Ma say will help Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate go national and transform the month-long campaign into a more permanent fixture to support AAPI communities and organizations.
“I’m not surprised that the Mayor is supporting the campaign, because we’ve been getting a lot of support, but it’s crazy to think how we grew up. Asian people don’t really ask for help. I was told the more hardship you go through, the more you learn to be independent,” says Tien, who’s of Vietnamese descent. “But it’s okay to ask for help, that’s what we’re talking about now. It shouldn’t be a looked down upon to say ‘Hey, this is happening to me, this is happening to my friends and community’.”
Tien says the idea for Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate began months ago because there wasn’t a lot of media attention or national discussion surrounding the rising wave of racism and violence against the Asian-American community in the Covid-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, Stop AAPI Hate has reported over 2,808 incidents—many say fueled by Trump’s “China flu” and other anti-Asian rhetoric. Plans for the takeout series were announced just after horrific reports were coming in from New York and Los Angeles of random attacks—largely on elderly Asian-Americans. And then on March 16, the Atlanta spa shooting happened that left eight people dead, six of Asian descent.
Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate garnered a huge amount of local hospitality industry support from the beginning; Tien essentially signed up 45 chefs, both of Asian descent and not, overnight. But since the Atlanta massacre, and growing awareness around the campaign, it’s snowballing. Tien and Ma say chefs around the country are reaching out to ask how to help—from Michelin-starred, James Beard Award winners to owners of small local restaurants. They’ve already established plans to launch a Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate dinner series in New York soon, and are in negotiations with leaders in other cities. Tien says he has enough chefs signed on to run the takeout dinner series from his Wharf restaurant through August, but the organization is looking to diversify events (Covid restrictions and safety in mind).
“There’s also a call to action outside the kitchen, we’re asking for help in every facet—social media, outreach, logistical coordination, legal consultation,” says Ma. “We’re going to start to use these funds to build a platform here to pave the way.”
The movement is reminiscent of another DC-born campaign: Bakers Against Racism. Founded by three local pastry chefs in June 2020, the bake sale to raise funds for racial justice organizations went global and raised over $2 million (with more to come from future events). Similar to that campaign, which benefited numerous organizations, Tien says he wants chefs in DC and other cities to help both prominent nonprofits like Stop AAPI Hate and smaller, local causes. “Let’s get money into the hands of who can use the money right now,” he says. The goal for Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate is to raise $1 million nationwide.
“Even people in smaller towns are like ‘Hey, I’m a pastry chef in rural North Carolina. What can I do?’,” says Tien. “I think the culinary world is very connected. The one thing you’re able to do, anywhere you are, is cook. And asking people to cook to spread awareness‚ it’s easy to get everyone involved.”
You can find out more about the dinner series, how to volunteer, and future events on the website.