To celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Sparks Magazine is featuring Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) unsung heroes during COVID-19.
We’re excited to feature Jake Long, who is an actor in San Gabriel, Calif. working part time at Bonchon, a Korean fried chicken restaurant.
Jake, How is the acting situation currently?
All projects have been shut down. Castings for projects have been through zoom. The amount of people on a film set is very high; there is a director, lighting staff, etc. It is impossible to do production the way they were. Mostly everything I am aware of has been shut down.
It’s pretty grim for the current time being. Being projects that are looking to film for the future still has access to bigger named stars. For smaller actors like myself, it has been much harder, and it has been paused.
What is the casting process like currently?
I can submit to talent searches and open calls. For other actors, background work is cancelled as well. (Background work is for example: extra work for big scenes – usually a large number of people walking around and doing miscellaneous activities). I know a couple of people who do that as their main job.
What do you do right now?
I work at a restaurant. I work at Bonchon, San Diego location. Per california requirements, we’re doing take-out only.
Can you describe what it has been like recently?
This was interesting when we first adjusted. After the first week of adjustments, our numbers rose back to normal or even more than before. Lunch crowd is usually not a big thing for us. For us it is weeknights, dinners, and weekends usually. But since this happened, there are more options to eat during lunch and afternoon hours.
My hours have definitely gone down. We have reduced them. We close an hour earlier than normal. During weeknights, there is still a good influx for dinner. I used to work around 20-30 hours previously. Now I work 20 hours a week.
What that’s been like?
It’s been different. We primarily used to do sit down. The transition to take out has been different. We shifted our priority to phone and online orders. We launched the online order because we were getting so many through our phones. We only have two phones, and we were getting a lot of people requesting delivery.
We don’t do delivery apps but Postmates has us listed. People ask why we’re not on Doordash. We can’t afford the cut (usually 30 percent goes to delivery service.) We were not able to accomodate for delivery. Instead, we let postmate orders happen. They still have to come into the store and wait at the store to take it.
Once it started, there was a big number in Postmates. New Postmate drivers, people we have not seen before. Unfortunately, they might not care about our position… Some Postmate people don’t speak english. They expect us to communicate to them right away.
Another challenge is that Postmate does not have our actual menu because we are our independent franchise: our options are different. Even though we try to correct it, Postmates has to call the client and confirm the changes which makes this process frustrating.
It takes a mental toll when you feel like you’re the only one who cares about keeping others healthy and safe.
What is the current hygiene situation?
Our owners have to provide masks/gloves. We change gloves every hour. We have a plastic barrier between us and the customers. We have hand sanitizers in the store.
We also have sanitized and unsanitized pens. Some things that have been frustrating are that some people don’t seem to care. A good 20 percent of customers come withouts gloves and masks. Some don’t even come with gloves.
We have set up stations for clean vs. unclean and a lot of people will mix up the stations and use unsanitized pens and put them in the clean areas. People don’t seem to care to look.
Do you feel safe?
I feel safe enough to keep working. I know that I’m doing my part. I’m in the store, behind the shield. Obviously, I have gloves on and masks on and the resources that are needed to stay clean. Some people don’t have access to it. When I want to take a break and eat food, that’s the only time I don’t want to have my mask on.
You sound frustrated with how others are handling it. Why is that?
We’re in California, and we are one of the more liberal places where people generally are more cautious about this. If we have people in California who don’t really care, I can’t imagine what it would be like in other areas. It’s a serious situation. People are dying daily.
Why are you working here?
I’m part of the leadership team at the store. I’m one of the few people who works this many hours. I’m essential to the store. If I said I couldn’t work anymore, it would be hard to replace the 20-something hours.
I do it not just because I feel the need to work but also it would be hard for things to function as normal if i wasn’t able to go in.
How you encountered xenophobia post COVID-19?
I haven’t experienced xenophobia and hate yet. We’re at San Gabriel where the population is mainly Asian. I am lucky enough to not have encountered it. Our chicken is good enough for them to look over the xenophobia or hate apparently.
Any one last advice?
Please be more considerate of everyone else in the situation. People doing business and people trying to be effective. Please respect the people who are working at the restaurant. The least we can show is try to be more cooperative. It takes a mental toll when you feel like you’re the only one who cares about keeping others healthy and safe.