Thursday, December 13, 2007

Andy: King of the World

And the winner is:

For Andy Zheng, it's a typical playground. It has dinosaurs, paper boats, paper airplanes and lots of friends who come and go.
But it also has honey chicken, fried rice, beef and broccoli, and sweet and sour pork.
Seven days a week, Jasmine Chinese Restaurant on Radio Road is Andy's domain and where he spends all of his time after
school and on weekends while his mom, Emily Zheng, and dad, Chung Zheng, work everyday.
Three years ago, Emily and Chung, who are originally from Fujian, China, moved to Naples from Tampa to take over her uncle's restaurant. The small dining room allows for about 30 or so people to dine-in, but most customers pick up to take out.
Those customers have become Andy's friends.
"Sometimes I come in when there's no one in here and we have karate fights," says Mark Stillwagon, a regular customer who comes to Jasmine once or twice a week.
"Hey, watch," Andy demands. The 6-year-old does a cartwheel in the middle of the dining room in front of Stillwagon and two women who are waiting for their food.
"Well, I could do that," says Stillwagon.
"OK, do it," Andy replies.
Stillwagon makes a face at Andy's challenge and looks at the ladies who are smiling at Andy. "OK, I can't do it."
Andy throws his head back and laughs. It's something he does often, as if he has just said the funniest thing he's ever heard.
Emily calls out that an order is ready. The ladies grab the bag and say goodbye to Andy.
"Bye. See you next time," he says. It's his typical response.
Stillwagon gives Andy a high-five and gets on his way as well.
"This is his way of life," says Heather Lucas, an employee at Jasmine for the past four months. "I really like working here because of Andy. When you come in, he's excited to see you."
Although Lucas was only expecting to work at Jasmine a couple of months, she's stayed. It would be hard to leave because she would miss the family, she says.
This may be Andy's way of life now, but Emily doesn't want this to be his way of life forever.
"I don't want him working in a restaurant," says Emily, adding that when you run a restaurant, there is no time to do anything else. "I want him to go to school and get a different job."
Andy has his own plans. "When I grown up, I'm going to be Spider-Man," he says only to change his mind five minutes later.
"I wanna be a bat man when I grow up," he says, throwing his head back and giggling to himself, as if the thought of being Batman just made his day.


Jakob said...

Andy makes me happy.

m said...

oh my... how cute is he!?!?

lackofintellect said...

Let me know, I will go to dinner sometime...

Great article by the way!