Asian Restaurant Week: What to know and how it started

NOW: Asian Restaurant Week: What to know and how it started

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Celebrations of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage are underway all month long across the U.S. and in Wisconsin.

In light of spreading awareness and visibility on our own Asian communities in the Milwaukee area, Asian Restaurant Week kicked off Monday.

"We always start with food, because I think within Asian cultures, like, offering food and providing sustenance, and feeding people, is the way we show care and love," said Shary Tran, one of the co-founders of ElevAsian.

It all started with four individuals who formed a group called ElevAsian, which was formally established in 2016.

After the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the group chose to highlight the wonderful local restaurants in the area, and in 2021, they created what's known as Asian Restaurant Week.

"Businesses were suffering, we wanted to say 'hey, you know, let's support our Asian businesses,'" said Tran. "Part of our mission as ElevAsian is to elevate people, businesses, issues."

ElevAsian has comprised a full list of all types of Asian restaurants for the public to check out. They said that although there aren't any special deals, the goal is to showcase visibility on the local businesses.

Tran is the youngest of 10 siblings, and the only one who was born in the U.S. She told CBS 58 News her family emigrated to Wisconsin at the end of the Vietnam War in the 70s. She, like her other co-founder, Jessica Boling, a Korean American adoptee, says growing up "different" was hard.

"I grew up in a small, rural, white town, with a white family, so I didn't really have really any Asians in my environment," she said.

And as adults, both women said they noticed the Milwaukee area lacked a sense of community.

"There weren't that many of us, there were maybe a handful that we'd see each other at events all the time and it was always the same people. We're like, there's got to be more than just us here," added Tran.

ElevAsian was born out of a need to raise a voice they say wasn't there.

"What does it mean to be white-adjacent? And what is our role in racial equity and how do we move things forward?" said Boling.

Teaching others to be an ally and helping celebrate diversity is something they say extends far beyond AAPI Month.

"Food, breaking bread, is the best way to build bridges between cultures, so we invite people to the table," said Tran.

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