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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.

买下纽约哈德逊谷的中餐馆Eng’s (餐馆名)40多年后,汤姆·薛(Tom Sit)终于不情愿地开始考虑自己的退休事宜了。

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.

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,他们还是异地恋。

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%。



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,其他针对华人族裔的配额在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中餐馆Eng’s工作,这家中餐馆创办于1927年。尽管他此前从未在餐馆工作过,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,有些移民在离开中国前当过厨师。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厨师来美国做中国地方菜。”



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.”

“这些菜最大的特点是制作简单,”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,他们做相同工作的可能性比父母要低。

“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,这些子女在恢复其父母作为第一代移民时应得的地位,”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“第二代华人的目标从来都不是继承父业。”



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.

此外,还有另一群人在尝试让中餐馆继续生存下去。
总部设在纽约的中式休闲快餐连锁店君子食堂(Junzi Kitchen),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,”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,把生意卖给其他新加入美国的第一代移民,或开始新生,开始做一些新的尝试。

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。“我想要那种忠诚生意的人,而不是那种‘我用赚它一两年钱,赚够钱拍屁股闪人’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.

薛女士比她的丈夫更愿意退休。平日善于言谈的她,在聊起中餐馆的继承人时却总是闪烁其词。

“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.”

“他们得努力干活,”薛女士说者,眼睛里闪烁着光芒,一边揶揄丈夫,“要像薛先生那样拼命工作。也许那时他会让他们接管。”

If he ever actually does hand Eng’s to someone else, Mr. Sit will miss his customers, and miss running an operation.

如果薛先生真的把中餐馆交给别人,薛先生可能会想念他的老食客们,想念在中餐馆忙碌的日子。