Chef Travels 6 Hours To Satisfy Terminally Ill Woman’s Craving For His Tempura Broccoli

Brandon Jones

Warning: you are going to want to order Chinese takeout and ugly-cry into it.

One son-in-law went above and beyond for his wife’s mother, who is in the final stages of lung cancer. She stopped her treatments in December, and Brandon Jones heard his mother-in-law share her desire to have her favorite meal one more time- tempura broccoli from Ekiben in Baltimore.

One small problem: Baltimore is at least six hours away from her location in Vermont. The Baltimore-based Jones emailed the owner of Ekiben, Steven Chu, simply requesting for the recipe, so he could prepare the meal for his loved one.

When his mother-in-law would visit him and his wife in Baltimore, the first place she insisted on going to was Ekiben in Fells Point, so she could order the tempura broccoli topped with fresh herbs, diced onion, and fermented cucumber vinegar. The couple estimates that they have taken mom to the restaurant at least 20 times.


“She had always told us, ‘When I’m on my deathbed, I want to have that broccoli. in fact, when I was packing on Friday to drive up to Vermont, I called my mom to see if she wanted us to bring anything special and she jokingly said, ‘tempura broccoli!’”

Rina Jones via Washington Post

Brandon Jones quickly received an email response that stunned him. Chu said he would personally travel to Vermont and prepare the meal fresh for the Jones family, free-of-charge.

“To me, it was a huge honor to be able to help fulfill the family’s wishes. This is about her, not us. There was a lot of good, positive energy in doing this.”

Steven Chu via Washington Post

Chu felt that fulfilling

the wish of the 72-year old loyal customer battling late-stage cancer was absolutely the right thing to do.

Him and two of his colleagues packed up for Vermont- his business partner, Ephrem Abebe, and employee Joe Anoneevo accompanying him on the journey. They stayed overnight in an Airbnb rental and had gathered and prepared the ingredients ahead of time, before heading to the condo where Rina Jones’ mother resides.

To take precaution, the Ekiben team prepared the feast outside in the parking lot of the condo, pulling down the gate of the pick-up and hooking up a hot plate to the vehicle’s power port. They prepared the much-loved broccoli tempura, as well as other tofu dishes.

Brandon Jones via Washington Post

Cooking the meals outside also provided the opportunity for surprise. When there was a knock on the door, the Jones family insisted that mom answer it. As soon as the woman opened the door, she immediately recognized the smell and Chu and his co-workers. 

Facebook/Brandon Jones

“My mom kept saying, ‘I don’t understand — you drove all the way up here to cook for me?’ “She was so happy and touched to have that broccoli. She couldn’t believe it…

My mom cried later about their generosity and so did I. They made so much food that she had it again the next day for lunch. It’s something we’ll never forget — I’ll carry that positive memory with me, always.”

Rina Jones via Washington Post

Chu recognized his customer as well, citing that she always made a point to compliment the chef.

“We see a lot of people in the restaurant, but she always stood out. She loves the food and always made sure to tell us. She’s an amazing, sweet lady…

She’s a lovely lady, who has showered us with love at our restaurant for years. It was a powerful experience, and I’m happy that we could make it happen.”

Steven Chu via Washington Post

The Jones’ invited the trio to stay for dinner, but they insisted that they must travel back to Baltimore. Branden Jones shared the family’s experience on Facebook, which was later shared by Baltimore City Council member, Zeke Cohen. 

We hear a lot about the challenges of restaurants in Baltimore. Yet despite the pandemic, despite crime, some are still...

Posted by Zeke Cohen on Friday, March 12, 2021
Facebook/Zeke Cohen

Must be some OUTSTANDING broccoli. You can order takeout from Ekiben’s two Baltimore-area locations HERE.


Written by Abigale Racine