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San Antonio Chef Fighting Cancer Opposes Texas' Reopening of Dining Rooms 

click to enlarge Noodle Tree chef Mike Nguyen vehemently opposes the reopening of San Antonio restaurants. - LEA THOMPSON
  • Lea Thompson
  • Noodle Tree chef Mike Nguyen vehemently opposes the reopening of San Antonio restaurants.
Gov. Greg Abbott's announcement this week allowing restaurants to reopen Friday following the expiration of the statewide stay-at-home order has raised eyebrows on both sides of the discussion.

But few, if any, San Antonio restaurateurs have more personal insight into the health implications of the order than Mike Nguyen, chef-owner of Noodle Tree, on the city’s Northwest side. He's both a restauranteur trying to keep the lights on and a concerned citizen fighting to stay alive.

"I’m on both sides," he said. "I do need my dining room to be open, but I have an illness that could prove fatal if I contracted COVID-19."

Ngyuen was recently diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer that begins in infection-fighting cells of the immune system.

"A lot of people will recover from the virus if they contract it, but I have a very low chance of survival if I do," he said. "It’s terrifying to think of what that could do to me."

The California native believes Texas officials don't understand the big picture. As evidence, he cites unclear, vague language in the downloadable checklists the state provided to businesses.

"This checklist is so broad," he said. "What is 'respiratory etiquette,' anyway?"

What's more, in mid-April, one of Nguyen's family members contracted COVID-19 and lost her life to the disease.

"I don’t want anyone to have to deal with what I'm dealing with," he said. "If my business closes, it'll close because I wasn't willing to put people’s lives on the line."

Unable to navigate around travel restrictions to attend his family member's funeral in Hawaii, Nguyen took to social media to share a Hawaiian proverb he learned from his Auntie Tutu: e here me ka pu' olo.

"'...Make every person, place, or condition better than you left it, always...'" Nguyen explained. "This is the time to do that. Not jumping the gun, not being reckless. … We're gambling with people's health, and I understand the need to try to stay afloat, but we have ask ourselves: at what cost?"

So many restaurants, so little time. Find out the latest San Antonio dining news with our Flavor Friday Newsletter.

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December 1, 2021

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