Hiroo Nagahara, chef and owner of Bao Hiroo, is offering to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photos by GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)


At a time when everyone seems to be hoarding supplies and scrambling to cope during the coronavirus pandemic, restaurateur Hiroo Nagahara has decided to lend a helping hand and is calling on fellow restaurant owners to do the same.

The owner of Bao Hiroo, a relatively new restaurant located at 905 E. Second St. where Little Tokyo meets the Arts District, is offering bags of surplus perishables for those in need, especially seniors with underlying conditions.

“In these times, we decided to remain open for business. We’re going to be selling food and providing food for any people who need it,” Nagahara said in an interview with The Rafu Shimpo.

Nagahara is originally from Tokyo, but has spent most of his culinary career in the U.S. He earned a Michelin star for Charlie Trotter in Las Vegas and competed on “Iron Chef Showdown” on the Food Network in 2017.

Bao Hiroo is known for its freshly baked Japanese milk breads and steamed bao with fillings such as crispy pork belly and koji fried chicken. Now doing only takeout or delivery, he has added tonkatsu curry and saikyo miso soup.

Arts District gallery director and community leader Jonathan Jerald has volunteered to pitch in and assist Nagahara by making deliveries. Joining the effort, Los Angeles City Council District 14’s Downtown L.A. Director Joella Hopkins reached out to her contacts in Little Tokyo, where more than 800 seniors reside.

Despite government edicts that discourage dine-in service, Nagahara is determined to keep his restaurant open. “Although financially risky from our end to stock the restaurant and staff it, we feel it is the right thing to do for our team and community,” he explains, adding, “This is the only way to help where we can and try to survive through the next few weeks.”

“Unfortunately, and sadly, we all know that not all of the restaurants that have closed will re-open. I think it’s important to help each other out where we can,” said Nagahara.

A second Arts District restaurant, Wurstkuche, has joined in donating its perishables to seniors. “Maybe there are other restaurants with a surplus,” Jerald noted.

Bao Hiroo, 905 E. Second St., #109, Los Angeles Arts District. Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Delivery and takeout only. More info at www.baohiroo.com or (213) 395-0626.

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