One afternoon in March 2021, Ekiben restaurant in Baltimore got an email. But instead of an order, or catering request, it was a man asking for a recipe.
The man, Brandon Jones, was writing for the recipe for tempura broccoli topped with fresh herbs, diced onion, and fermented cucumber vinegar. Brandon was writing on behalf of his mother-in-law, who was in the final stages of lung cancer at her home in Vermont. For the previous six years, every time she visited her daughter and son-in-law in Baltimore, the first place she wanted to go was to Ekiben for her favorite dish. Now Brandon wanted to try to replicate it so she could have it one last time.
“She had always told us, ‘When I’m on my deathbed, I want to have that broccoli,’ ” recalls Brandon’s wife, Rina Jones.
Steve Chu, one of the restaurant’s co-owners, got the email that afternoon and quickly replied with another idea. “Thanks for reaching out,” he wrote. “We’d like to meet you in Vermont and make it fresh for you.”
Brandon couldn’t believe it. He confirmed that Steve understood his mother-in-law was in Vermont – six hours away. “No problem,” Steve responded. He remembered Brandon’s MIL. She loved their food and always made sure to tell them. She stood out.
A day after receiving the email, Steve, his business partner Ephrem Abebe and one other employee loaded up the truck with a hot plate and a cooler full of ingredients. Leaving after work. they stayed overnight on the way and arrived at the woman’s condo the next day. They immediately got to work, making the broccoli dish plus tofu with fresh herbs and steamed rice. They boxed everything up and knocked on their customer’s door.
At the knock, Brandon’s wife Rina told her mother to answer the door. She couldn’t believe it. She immediately recognized the smell, and recognized Steve. She couldn’t believe they would drive so far to do this for her. The family invited Chu and his team to stay for dinner, but they needed to get back to Baltimore. They also refused any payment from the family.
“It was an honor to help fulfill the family’s wishes,” Chu says. “This is about her, not us. There was a lot of good, positive energy in doing this.”
Rina was happy that her mother was able to enjoy her beloved broccoli with a side order of remarkable kindness one last time. “My mom cried later about their generosity, and so did I,” Rina says. “I’ll carry that positive memory with me always.”
“This is about her, not us.” What a beautiful sentiment. This story is an incredible example of selfless kindness, and a reminder of the impact we can have on others by just doing what feels right. Here at The Joseph Group we talk a lot about living great lives, and living with a heart this open to kindness and compassion – what a rewarding part of a great life.
Written by Michelle O’Brien, Manager of Marketing & Communications