Thank You Enjoy is a photography exhibition created by Katie Salisbury that highlights the lives of Chinese restaurant workers in New York. The project was inspired by a simple question: If Chinese takeout is so popular in America, why do we know so little about the people who work in the industry?
Katie began working on the project in the summer of 2016 by talking to the people who ran the Chinese takeouts in her then neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Her original intention was to interview and photograph workers for a photo essay. But as she met more people and listened to their stories, the scope of the project grew much larger. What started as a straightforward photo essay has since turned into a TED Talk, a long-form feature article in The Ringer, and now a photography exhibition that will travel across the the U.S. in 2019.
Katie brings a unique perspective to this topic as a fourth-generation Chinese American. In fact, in the process of bringing the project to life she discovered a forgotten piece of her own family’s history. Her great-grandfather Gee Kee Ward, an immigrant from Toisan, China, had himself owned and operated a Chinese restaurant across from Union Station in Los Angeles during the 1940s.
Through photographs and captions in English and Chinese, Thank You Enjoy tells the stories of cooks, delivery workers, waiters, and community organizers who work in the Chinese restaurant industry. The show challenges visitors to consider the working conditions and personal sacrifices of Chinese immigrants while reconsidering what it means to be American.