Local Chinese restaurant benefit from economic reform in Cuba

09:49, January 11, 2011      

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Hundreds of Chinese are now living in Cuba, and the economic reforms there are influencing their life and work. Today, in our series on Cuba's economic reforms, Yang Yan takes a look at how a well-known local Chinese restaurant is benefitting from the new policy.

The Chinatown in Havana may be the smallest in the world. There's hardly a Chinese customer in most restaurants here. But the Temple of Heaven Restaurant at the end of the street is packed. Not only with Chinese and foreign tourists, but also local high-level officials. It's the only restaurant with a Chinese manager and Chinese chef.

The owner is Shanghai native Tao Qi, who's been in Cuba for 15 years. She married a Cuban and opened this restaurant in 1995.

Tao Qi, Owner of Temple of Heaven Restaurant, said, "The space was really small at the beginning, without the outside exterior and upstairs floor. Only five tables could be set up. The kitchen was very shabby and then we expanded it gradually."

Cuban regulations limit private restaurants to a maximum of 12 customers, and the owner can only hire relatives. But the Temple of Heaven was granted an exemption for a trial plan. It expanded to two stories and 41 employees.

But even a special permit can't make up for a lack of ingredients.

Tao Qi, Owner of Temple of Heaven Restaurant, said, "Ingredients are very hard to buy. Cuba has none, especially Chinese ingredients. I have them shipped back from China every time I go back. Sometimes, from the United States and Canada."

To ensure an authentic Chinese flavor, Tao Qi asked her chef friend Luo Shugui to come in 1999. It took Luo some time to get used to Havana, and like Tao Qi, he worried about the proper ingredients.

Luo Shugui, Chef, Temple of Heaven Restaurant, said, "Vegetables are relatively abundant now, but sometimes there's a shortage. You saw it yesterday but it may be sold out today and maybe you can buy it after one or two months."

The restaurant is just one of the beneficiaries of Cuba's expanded private sector, which reduces the government burden for social welfare. Private business owners have to pay individual income tax, business tax and social insurance outlay.

But for Tao Qi and many others like her, it's a chance to taste success.

Source: CNTV.cn
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