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Chinese restaurant fights rumor

by Sheila Gardner

Everywhere he goes, Kai Lin hears the rumor.

It goes something like this: The Nevada Division of Health shut down his family’s restaurant – the popular Mandarin Gourmet in the Ironwood Shopping Center in Minden – because inspectors found frozen cat carcasses in the freezer.

The untrue allegation spread like wildfire through Carson Valley and Carson City, according to Lin, prompting a drop in business and barrage of harassing telephone calls.

Lin is feeling the pressure professionally and personally. People stop him in the grocery store and on the street, wanting to know if the story is true.

“We just want our customers back,” he said. “We just want people to know the truth.”

According to the Nevada Division of Health, the truth is that Mandarin Gourmet is above standards and has met “significant compliance” during the last two inspections. The facility has not been shut down.

“In neither of these inspections did we find any foods from an unapproved source,” said Richard Elloyan, registered environmental health specialist for the division.

Elloyan conducted the inspections himself and said he has never received a complaint from people about the quality of the food at the Mandarin Gourmet.

“I think that’s why this rumor has taken on such significance,” Elloyan said Friday. “People like that restaurant so much, they’re checking it out. This is a first for me. I’ve never dealt with a rumor of this magnitude. This one is larger than any I have had to deal with in the eight years I’ve been doing this.”

Lin said people keep telling him they have read stories or seen photographs of the cat carcasses in newspapers.

“If anyone can find me a picture or story, I told them I would pay them $1,000,” he said.

Lin said he appreciates the people who try to verify the story.

“I am angry about the people who started the rumor,” he said. “Our family has been very successful in the restaurant business for 30 years.”

– Professional jealously. Lin’s father, George Liao, said he believes the rumor is motivated by professional jealousy.

“We’ve been here for four years and business has been very good,” he said. “People are not using their heads. They want to hurt me.”

Liao, who served in the Chinese Air Force as personal pilot for leader General Chiang Kai-shek, came to the United States 30 years ago and opened his first restaurant in San Francisco. He has owned restaurants in San Jose, Denver and Lake Tahoe before moving to Minden four years ago.

“I came for the American dream. This has never happened to me before,” Liao said. “I am very hurt by it. I want to find out who did this to me. I am innocent.”

Liao is offering a reward to find out who started the rumor.

“People are very concerned for me. They call me and say they can’t believe what’s happening. I have to fight back. I am innocent,” Liao said.

“You can compete with me over prices. You can use anything to make your food taste good, but don’t use this kind of thing to attack me,” he said.

He is offering a $1,000 reward for information about who might have started the rumor.

He can be reached at 782-8801.