By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – Three Denver chefs teamed up to raise money and awareness for causes related to the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Anti-Asian hate incidents have spiked across the country since the start of the pandemic. This week, the group, Stop AAPI Hate, released new data showing more than 6,000 anti-Asian hate incidents have been reported in the past year, which is nearly double from the year before.

Women were the victims in nearly 65% of those incidents.

(credit: CBS)

After several acts of hate and violence toward the Asian American community were reported nationally in the spring, Penelope Wong, owner of Yuan Wonton, a Denver-based food truck, said she was concerned for her family and finding it difficult to leave the house.

In March, she was caught off guard by the question of fellow chef, Carolyn Nugent, owner of Ulster St. Pastry, a popular micro-bakery she operates out of her own home. The two became friends earlier in the year.

Nugent said she reached out to Wong because she noticed something in her energy.

“She asked me out of the blue, ‘how are you doing?’ and it was like the floodgates just opened,” Wong said.

(credit: Penelope Wong)

“Fear for her family, fear for her business… it just really knocked me back, and from then on I said, ‘we need to do something more,’” Nugent said.

Now, Wong, Nugent, and fellow chef Caroline Glover, of Annette in Aurora, are leading the fundraiser Better Together – Colorado for AAPI. It includes a GoFundMe page, along with a weekly raffle of items and services donated by more than 30 chefs, restaurants, small businesses and local musicians, such as Hop Alley, Frasca Food & Wine, The Lumineers and Nathaniel Rateliff.

“We’ve got multi-course tasting dinners, private cooking lessons, private baking lessons,” Wong said.

All of the money raised will go to two charities that support AAPI causes. Wong said the recipients will be the Asian American Foundation and the AAPI Community Fund. The goal is to raise at least $10,000.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s just incredible. In two days’ time we’re at 70% of our goal,” Wong said. “Denver is amazing.”

“The response just goes to show how big the heart is in the hospitality industry here, and in other businesses as well,” Nugent said. “We’re going to do something amazing.”

The bigger goal is to do something even more valuable, Wong says, and it’s something she will continue to work toward long after the fundraiser ends.

“[We’re] doing as much as we can to spread awareness to let people know that this is happening,” Wong said. “That’s my primary goal.”

If you would like to donate to Better Together – Colorado for AAPI, you can do so here.

Conor McCue