Tribute: Restaurant Manager Hing Chi Stephen Chung Paved the Way for Others to Succeed

Hing Chi Stephen Chung, 1949-2021.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Herman Chung is still processing the death of his father, Hing Chi Stephen Chung, 71. Stephen Chung was the manager of Jing Fong UWS, who died on April 25th, a week after being hit by a delivery cyclist in the Amsterdam Avenue bike lane, near West 78th Street, in front of the restaurant where he worked.

The details of the accident are somewhat unclear — no eyewitnesses have come forward and video cameras on the street apparently weren’t in position to capture what happened. What is known, according to Calvin Ho, Jing Fong’s assistant manager, is that “Stephen was unloading vegetables for the kitchen” from his parked car, when he was struck.

“I’ve honestly just been keeping busy with funeral logistics and sorting through his belongings,” Herman Chung wrote to WSR. “It was a long week of tempering expectations with no improvements in prognosis, so I think I braced myself sufficiently. I’m sure there will be some stuff to work through personally once the dust settles.”

Herman offers “apologies in advance” if some of the notes he sent for his father’s obituary “end up being a bit unstructured narratively, as I expect non-sequitur recollections to arise throughout.” He is in his early 30s, a conductor for the Long Island Rail Road. His mother died 11 years ago, when he was in college. He has no siblings. Lightly edited, here is the tribute he wrote for his father.

My father, Hing Chi Chung, or Stephen as many of his friends and associates knew him, worked in the restaurant industry his entire life since arriving in the United States from Hong Kong in the 1980s. He worked in various positions, a majority of the time as a waiter at various levels of seniority. Through his befriending of chefs in the industry, he began to take up cooking as a hobby and became quite proficient as a recreational chef himself. His earnest eagerness to learn about and from others coupled with his incredibly gregarious nature I think is ultimately what made him so valued and beloved by his numerous employers and friends throughout his life here.

While perhaps not a community leader/organizer in the traditional sense, what the overwhelming outpouring of sympathies and attendance at my father’s funeral showed me was that he was at least a vitalizing force within it. I remember nights after returning from work when he would set out to prepare dishes to help cater community events in Chinatown. Among those events and community organizations, the ones which I remember most vividly and I think he prided himself on the most were the community Chinese Opera groups. Beyond his personal interest, he was also very aware of how important such cultural identity-driven art communities are to its members, a great number of whom were retirees/elderly first-generation immigrants who would otherwise not have had as culturally genuine and therefore emotionally healthy ways of passing their time. He also saw them as a means of preserving a cultural identity and art form that always feels so ready to be eroded or outright lost among waves of conformity required by later generations.

Of the myriad of anecdotes told to me by my father’s countless number of friends, one from his lifelong friend Keith stood out (loosely translated): “Your father never forgot anyone, and was always looking out for professional and personal opportunities for the people he knew. I would be dying impoverished if he didn’t push me to a union job, and alone if he didn’t push me to pursue my now wife.” My father would always look to bring in new arrivals to grow the network of support and opportunities. That quiet newcomer to the industry/country? He would be the first to offer them a chance to become friends/support. I think that encapsulates who my father fundamentally was, and why so many of his friends, employers and colleagues are very heartbroken to see him gone so soon. Surely it’s a loss for the industry, but even more so for his communities.

FOOD, NEWS | 10 comments | permalink
    1. knyc says:

      thank you for sharing.

    2. Sarah says:

      I’m very sorry for your loss, Herman. Your father sounds like the kind of man who helps keep his community going even if he’s not in formal leadership positions.

    3. Nani says:

      Heartbreaking. What a tragic loss not just for his son but the whole community. Hing Chi Chung (Stephen) sounds like a wonderful, kind hearted and hardworking person. My condolences to his son, co-workers and friends.

    4. Papi says:

      This story so reminds me about the day-to-day struggles faced by our family members who migrated to this country with just a dream and the clothes on their back. They found work, they made friends and they helped others. It’s no wonder we are so proud of their accomplishments. Stephen’s story honors their memory and reminds us of our family members who came to this country and made it a better place to live.

    5. Jude says:

      Thank you for sharing and telling his story.

    6. Daniel says:

      There is a terrible erosion of pedestrian rights taken by the sudden proliferation of unlicensed electric vehicles in the city. This chaos has inevitably led to disasters such as the death of mr. Chung. The city must regulate this traffic.

    7. ajiv says:

      I am so sorry for your loss, and so moved by your beautiful tribute to your father. May he rest in peace.

    8. TravelgalNYC says:

      Thank you for this tribute to an honorable man. He reminds me of my grandfather and father (both immigrants from China) who worked tirelessly to provide for our family and grew to be business owners as well; supporting many workers and their communities through charitable work. I’m so sorry for your loss!

    9. Donna Gray says:

      Thank you for this very moving tribute. Although I only met Mr. Chung a couple of times at Jing Fong, he made a lasting impression on me that reflects the recollections in the obituary his son Herman wrote. Once when the restaurant didn’t have the dim sum custard pies I like, he offered to pick some up for me in Chinatown. I never took him up on that offer, but was so touched by the gesture.

    10. Mark D. Friedman says:

      Herman, I had the pleasure of knowing your father and he was a wonder man. Jing Fong always comes to our event called “Taste of Hope for the American Cancer Society and last year we had to scramble and do a virtual event instead of the normal 90 restaurants showing up. We decided to do a virtual event and went around and interviewed our restaurants. Your father graciously joined in and did a short but great cameo. My heart goes out to you during this time. May his memory be a blessing.