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‘Restaurant Redemption’ helps Yen Ching Express in Bloomington, Ill.

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Tonight's Cooking Channel episode of Restaurant Redemption brings adorable chef Ching-He Huang to Bloomington, Ill. to the Yen Ching Express restaurant to meet with John Bian, his wife Rebekah and his parents, Xue and Zhong, who opened this restaurant when they immigrated from China.

Because the restaurant is the only source of income for the family, the situation is dire. When Ching arrived, she found it had a drive-through window and ordered a few items just to give it a try. There were cobwebs on the window, and the service was very slow. When she got her order, it was not exactly what she ordered, and was tasteless and oily.

When she went inside, she met the family and found that they used to bring in $70,000 a month, but now it is more like $10,000. She told them that she had a sample of their food, but wants to try a few more. While she waited, she walked around the restaurant to see the décor. It seemed like it had not been cleaned in twenty years, and the ceiling fan was covered in crud. The roof was leaking, and the interior lacked a loving touch. When she was served the food, it seemed lifeless, dull and tired. The egg foo yung was gross, fried rice was a greasy mess, beef and broccoli was too salty to eat. She knows that food like this gives Chinese food a bad name.

When she met with the family, she told them exactly how she felt. Xue told her that it was Americanized Chinese food, but her opinion differed as she told them the hard truth. As she did, she saw that the power struggle between father and son was going to be a difficult one to settle.

When John tried to state his opinion, his father spoke over him and anyone who tried to speak. Ching knew that the restaurant needed a change from the bottom to the top.

The design team spent time cleaning, repainting and redecorating, but Ching had the hardest job; restructuring the family. Rebekah told Ching that John’s parents stated that they wanted to retire, but just could not let go.

Ching restructured the menu and announced it to John and Rebekah first to see if they could handle the concept. She gave them new items, which included sandwiches, that could be made quickly and with fresh ingredients. When she gave them a taste, they loved it. However, showing it to Xue was a different story. When John tasted the chicken sandwich she prepared, he said it needed more crunch, and she agreed that she forgot the pickle. Even his father had a change of heart and trusted his son to handle the new menu.

So, Ching took John and Rebekah to the truck stop across the street and made the announcement. They even got the truckers to let Ching announce it over their radio that there is a new grab and go menu at Yen Ching Express.

When the family saw the bright interior of the restaurant, they were stunned at its beauty and cleanliness. When the crowd outside was anxious to see the new restaurant, the kitchen was busy. John was not used to being in charge, but Ching gave him confidence and the hungry diners loved it and found that it was worth waiting for thanks to Ching and her crew of Restaurant Redemption.

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