NEW YORK — A Chinese tycoon served up a fancy lunch Wednesday to hundreds of homeless New Yorkers at a Central Park restaurant.
Recycling magnate Chen Guangbiao selected a menu of sesame-seed-encrusted tuna, beef filet and berries with crème fraiche at The Loeb Boathouse restaurant for the residents of a Manhattan shelter. He also plans to regale his 250 guests by singing “We are the World” and promised to donate $300 per attendee to charity.
Chen is partnering on the event with the New York City Rescue Mission, the oldest shelter in the nation.
About three dozen volunteer waiters sported green uniforms similar to those once worn by soldiers in China’s People’s Liberation Army, bearing the words “Serve the People.” They were dishing up food to a mostly male group of attendees.
“I’m looking forward to a good time and a good meal,” said Antone Hills, a Mission resident who was a guest. “I think he’s a good guy and he’s helping our country.”
Chen says he wants to disprove the cliche image of rich Chinese spending money mostly on luxuries.
“I was not born into a rich family or a family of government officials. When I was 4 years old my brother and sister died of hunger, so I achieved my success through confidence, self-motivation and my hard work,” Chen said in Chinese in an interview on “CBS This Morning.”
He then launched into an a cappella rendition of “We are the World.”
His worth is estimated $750 million.
“Our thought was if someone wants to treat them to an amazing event — something they would never experience on their own, maybe even a kernel of hope that life could be different again, we’re in for that reason. That’s our motive,” said the mission’s executive director, Craig Mayes.
But Chen’s American ambitions surpass philanthropy.
Earlier this year, the 46-year-old businessman wanted to buy The New York Times. Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., said the newspaper was not for sale.
To announce the lunch, Chen placed ads in the Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Saying he wanted to invite 1,000 “poor and destitute Americans” his photo was printed next to an image of Lei Feng, a soldier in Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army who is characterized as selfless. The caption read “China’s Lei Feng for a new era.” Some of the waiters’ outfits on Wednesday were replicas of Lei’s uniform.
Chen has been deemed eccentric from his theatrical antics.
To protest air pollution in Beijing, he stood on a street corner handing out containers marked “Fresh Air.” Chen also rushed to the scene of a massive earthquake in Sichuan and handed out cash to victims. On Tuesday in New York City, he was on the street handing out $100 bills to anyone who looked like they needed money. His English language business card reads: “MOST CHARASMATIC PHILANTHROPIST OF CHINA.”