Meet Sandy Chen: Philanthropist, Community Leader, and Owner of Koi Fine Asian Cuisine

We would like to introduce you to Sandy Chen. Sandy Chen operates Koi Fine Asian Cuisine in Evanston, and Le Sud Mediterranean restaurant in Roscoe Village. She is a philanthropist and a community leader. Her table 23 charity program has supported numerous local nonprofit organizations such as: Erica’s Lighthouse, Lighthouse Rotary Club of Evanston,  Forrest Powell Foundation WE Work Ethic, Curt’s Café, and more. She has also received numerous recognition through the community such as: Evanston Arts and Leadership award from Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, Rotary’s Business Ethics Award, and Businessperson of the year from the Evanston Chamber of Commerce. With her dedication, work ethic, and passion about the hospitality industry, Koi was voted the best Asian restaurant in the north shore for the past six years, and Le Sud was voted the Best New Restaurant in Roscoe Village. Amidst all this success, she quotes: “Work is not my job, it’s my lifestyle”.

Koi Restaurant

During this COVID-19, she strongly believes there is a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens, whether that is what we perceive as good or bad. She is focusing on the good part of life during this difficult time. Unfortunately, Le Sud had to shut down due to our governor’s lockdown order, but Koi was incredibly lucky to be able to open for curbside pickup and delivery. Life is as good as it gets, and with Koi’s push to stay open, it allows Sandy to continue to give back to her community. Sandy is currently donating meals to local hospitals, Connections for the Homeless, industry workers, and at the same time supporting her employees. She has a huge heart for the frontline workers, and she provides them with free meals to take home and relax, when the long days finish. During this COVID-19, it is reminding us that our true work is not our job, that is what we do, not what we were created to do. Our true work is to protect each other, to look after each other and to benefit each other. It is reminding us that we can be patient and enjoy some quality time both alone and with loved ones.

Koi basil plate

With the recent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) going dry, Sandy strongly recommends everyone to support locally owned restaurants. The restaurant business is not a hardware store. The daily burn rate is high, and profit margin is low. Once you turn off the spigot of cash flow, it does not matter whether it is a small casual restaurant or fine dining restaurant, they will find themselves bankrupt very quickly unless the community steps up and supports them. You can directly support Koi by ordering for curbside pickup and delivery, so Koi can continue both servicing the community and providing meals for those in need. The road ahead looks promising. By sticking together and supporting our local businesses, we can shape our communities for years to come. We are in this together.

Lastly, it takes a village to raise a child. Sandy wanted to give special thanks to Evanston Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Evanston. Evanston Lighthouse Rotary Club, Evanston Mayors Advisory Board, Chicago Northshore Convention Center, and many more organizations in the Northshore Community who have support her Table23 program. Sandy wishes to thank one very special person: Linda Gerber at Evanston Lighthouse Rotary Club. She is a community leader, mentor, and a best friend. With Linda’s support and encouragement, She helped pave the way for Sandy to find success helping the community.

If you’d like to be a part of this community meal program, head on over to Koi Evanston to donate a meal to someone in need.

Sany Chen Koi

About Sandy

When I immigrated to the US from Mainland China with my parents and three younger siblings, I would never imagined that one day I had the ability to open my own business, help other people, and make positive impacts to my community in which I now call home. Making the journey to a new land means giving up everything from one’s first home. My family’s story was just like one of these, landing here in Chicago with $300 in my dad’s pocket to achieve our American dreams. They worked very hard to support all of us. I was always in charge in the house, from cooking dinner for my brothers and sisters, doing laundry and cleaning the house, to bossing them around. I thought I would be a good boss.

So I opened my own business, a restaurant called Chen’s in Wrigleyville back in 1994. Hard work and long hours essentially headline a small business owner, and I worked on average 12 hours a day, 7 days a Week for the first few years. It was challenging and rewarding. This further drove my passion to open another restaurant.

Koi joined Evanston in 2004, and the community is originally what brought us here!  There was initially a need for a fine dining Asian Fare restaurant on the North Shore, and Evanston was the best fit for our concept. I worked very hard and lucky to vote as Best Asian Restaurant in Northshore from Make it Better Magazine 5 years in a row. For the past 16 years, building the Evanston community has been our biggest goal.  We have worked tirelessly to help build the reputation of Evanston’s Restaurant Row, as well as strengthen the community bond! Thanks to a great Koi team, and an even more amazing Evanston community, Koi has allowed me to open my most recent restaurant, Le Sud. Le Sud is a culmination of all of the long nights, patience and perseverance I’ve learned throughout these years. From learning new cuisines to expanding wine lists, it keeps me on my toes to further drive my passion.

Don’t forget that growth and greatness often come from those seemingly endless, fruitless days and nights of faith and discipline.

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