BAE Interview: Noodle Talk Home Cuisine

As we speak with Kelly Meng outside her restaurant — Noodle Talk, tucked away in the Los Altos Village Shopping Center — she tells us about her struggle to find a place for her culture after immigrating from China to Silicon Valley, where Americanized and non-regional Chinese food seems to be the norm.

“My husband and I loved to cook authentic Chinese food,” she explains. “We immigrated here six years ago, and we found out that it’s very hard to find restaurants that can actually do really authentic Chinese cuisine. We’ve got a lot of Panda Express in this area, and a lot of Americanized Chinese food — but that’s not our real food.”

Instead, Meng sought to represent a genuine version of the food she loves by opening her first restaurant in Sunnyvale. Pleased with its success, she expanded to Los Altos in hopes of showing more people how diverse and delicious Hunan and Sichuan food can be. “People love our food,” Meng continues as she smiles through her mask. “Lot’s of celebrities eat here too, even last year! Still, lots of local residents don’t know a lot about us yet. We’re very new.”

Especially as travel in the Bay Area dropped and rates of the virus skyrocketed, Meng and her employees found themselves in uncharted territory. Meng tells us that business has gone down nearly 50%, with problems starting as soon as January.

“People have seen so much coverage of the coronavirus, especially with China, and are far more scared of eating in the restaurant,” she elaborates. “And in fact, in February, it’s always the Chinese New Year festival, which is usually the busiest time of year for our restaurant, but many people just canceled their reservations.”

From there, things only went further downhill. Meng explains: “From March to May, we had to close down for the safety of our staff and our restaurant. We reopened in the middle of May.” Since then, Noodle Talk has tried their luck with delivering to go, but the practices of apps like DoorDash and UberEats have done more harm than good. “They charge us from 20 to 30 percent,” Meng begins. “That’s so much cost that we can’t make any money off to go. Still, we do have to support our employees, so right now it really is difficult for us.”

In spite of the obstacles facing Noodle Talk, Meng has remained steadfast in lending a hand to those fighting against the pandemic. “We are trying very hard to help the community,” she explains. “I’ve purchased face masks from China and donated to local hospitals and pharmacies. We also joined ‘Meals of Love’ — we donated over 400 Bento Boxes to local hospitals like El Camino Hospital and Santa Clara Kaiser Hospital.”

Meng hopes that over time, that goodwill will translate into a change for the better. “Just like we can help the community, we hope that the community can also help us provide food,” she tells us, in an appeal to local residents to support her business and those like it “Anything helps, even advertising.”

Noodle Talk also accepts donations on GoFundMe.

4546 El Camino Real a6, Los Altos, CA 94022

Find out more about Noodle talk here:

https://www.noodletalk.us

https://www.gofundme.com/f/noodle-talk-covid-19-relief-fund-smb?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=yelp&utm_campaign=p_smb_cp

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BAE Initiative

BAE Initiative

The BAE (Bay Area Enterprises) Initiative is a student-led organization that helps local businesses fight the effects of Covid-19.