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Mandarin says 'Thank you' with free meals
By BRETT CLARKSON, SUN MEDIA
Last Updated: 24th June 2009, 4:06am
James Chiu was hungry for success and for him, Canada has been a buffet of opportunity.
That's why the Mandarin restaurants co-founder has decided to give away free meals at all of the chain's 21 locations across Ontario on Canada Day.
The endeavour means about 30,000 meals will be eaten at no charge, cost the company about $500,000.
"We are very grateful to be here in Canada," said Chiu, 61, who emigrated with his parents from Taiwan to Canada in 1964 after his dad took a research job in Montreal.
"We are very lucky to be here in such a peaceful, free, clean country, to make a living and bring our families up. We just feel grateful. So we're thinking, what can we do on Canada Day besides give people a flag and a discount? Why don't we just say thanks to them and give them a free meal?"
The only catch? Just prove you're a Canadian citizen.
On July 1, no reservations will be accepted and each Mandarin restaurants will open at noon with the last seatings at 8.30 p.m.
"First come, first serve, so if you get in line and you can prove that you're Canadian, you get a free meal," Chiu said.
Chiu, who spoke no English -- only Mandarin -- when he arrived in Canada, said it took him about five years to learn functional English while attending Outremont High School in Montreal.
He became a Canadian citizen in 1969 and in 1979, after moving to Toronto, opened the first Mandarin restaurant in Brampton.
Thirty years later, Mandarin employs 2,000 people, many of them immigrants to Canada.
The 21 Mandarin locations serve about 100,000 people a week. Mandarin isn't authentic Chinese food, Chiu said, but rather, Canadian-Chinese food, with 35 different salads, 40 different desserts and between 60 and 70 main courses.