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Coronavirus Paranoia Has Depleted Business for the DMV’s Most Prominent Chinese Chef

Chinese restaurants around D.C. have reported dramatic drops in sales

From top left, Lisa Chang, Peter Chang, Lydia Chang, and Ronger Chang
From top left, Lisa Chang, Peter Chang, Lydia Chang, and Ronger Chang
Rey Lopez/For Mama Chang

Even Peter Chang, the legendary former Chinese embassy chef whose family has opened eponymous restaurants selling Sichuan, Hunan, and Hubei specialties across Virginia and Maryland, has been affected by a coronavirus scare fueled in part by xenophobia, racism, and panic.

Lydia Chang, the chef’s daughter who oversees business development for the family, tells Washingtonian that the Peter Chang location in Rockville has seen a 50 percent drop in sales. Business at Essential 38 member Mama Chang (Fairfax) and Q by Peter Chang has dropped by 20 to 30 percent, she says. Business is holding steady at an Arlington outpost.

D.C.’s tiny, big box-heavy Chinatown pales in comparison to the bustling districts in cities like New York, San Francisco, Seattle, or Boston, and suburbs such as Rockville and Fairfax have become hubs for Chinese food.

An Eater editor recently found that Cantonese stalwart XO Taste in Falls Church was far emptier than usual. Sichuan Jin River in Rockville has reported a 35 percent drop. Owner Judy Yu tells NPR affiliate WAMU that she thinks Chinese customers have been more likely to stay away from her business. Larry La, the owner of Mei Wah in Chevy Chase, tells WAMU his mostly American customer base has continued to patronize the restaurant.

Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School Center for Health Security, tells the Washington Post that coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has not been found to spread through food, and it’s irrational to avoid Chinese restaurants. Managers at Mama Chang have still responded by upping their cleaning efforts.

According to a Johns Hopkins study, there are 57 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., and none in Washington, Maryland, or Virginia.

Washingtonian also reports that Ronger Chang, Peter’s mother and the source for many homestyle dishes at Mama Chang, is under quarantine at her home about three hours outside of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected.

Q by Peter Chang

4500 East-West Highway, , MD 20814 (240) 800-3722 Visit Website

Mama Chang

3251 Old Lee Highway, , VA 22030 (703) 268-5556 Visit Website