The food’s awfully good down at the Gates of Heaven Chinese Restaurant. Delbert Chin’s been putting on a decent feed there since he came to this country many years ago.
We like that lunch buffet. All you can eat, of course, and he makes this pink sauce that’s out of this world. You can put it on everything. And you want to.
He asked me once why I used so much of it, and I told him if I had enough of that sauce, I could live on cardboard boxes and bedding straw.
But there’s something else about Delbert, too. He is so proud of how clean his kitchen is, he will drag strangers in to look at it. We’ve all been there. At least once a year, Delbert will say, “You been in my kitchen? You come look.” And we do. If he doesn’t recognize you as a local, you definitely will get the kitchen tour. He insists we run our fingers along the top of the stove’s grease hood. We run paper towels behind the big stainless fridges. Under the stoves, too. Especially under the stoves. No grease, no dust, nothing. And he grins at the astonishment on our faces. But he keeps two teenage boys fairly busy cleaning – I mean scrubbing – that kitchen every day. You can tell when they’re working, because you can hear Delbert shouting instructions.
Oh, we have the usual health inspectors, as everyone does. But they don’t really need to go in there, and they know it. They’ll never red tag the Gates of Heaven. At any rate, Delbert knows customers have their own ways of red tagging a place that’s less than spotless, too.
I’ve always wondered what in his past led him to be this way. I don’t know that anyone has ever asked him. Maybe we should. There has to be a good story there.
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