Ming "Eric" Chen comes from a long family line of Chinese-Midwest restaurant owners—a cousin runs hers in Davenport, Iowa, while his sister opened one in Milan, Ill. An uncle runs his in Geneseo, Ill.
Since opening Panda Garden in 2009, Eric relies on his wife, Jenny, and children Brian (11) and Ida (9) to help run the eatery smoothly.
The Chen family never borrows funds to open the restaurants—Instead, they rely on each other to lend money and help each other out.
“We struggle to help each other ... We don’t believe in borrowing. It is Chinese tradition," Eric said.
Although dedicated to friendly service and authentic recipes, the Chens' long hours can become mundane. Eric encourages Brian and Ida to pursue a steadier field with regular hours.
"I can't get another job because my English is bad. I'm [an] American citizen, but I just want a job that ends at 5 o'clock," Eric says.