A popular YouTuber who went viral handing out $1,000 cash tips in Chinatown last week explained to The Post why he got the year of the ox off to a prosperous start for five lucky restaurateurs.
Arieh Smith, 30, is known for his Xiaomanyc channel, where he defies expectations by chatting up people in Mandarin and Cantonese.
The Manhattan native’s interest in Chinese language and culture started with a summer class at Hunter College, and blossomed in an intense language immersion program in Beijing.
“It’s a two month thing where like, you have to sign a pledge not to speak English the entire summer. And if they catch you speaking English they will literally kick you out of the program,” Smith told the Post.
His tipping extravaganza video was funded by Skillshare, a sponsor of Smith’s YouTube channel.
The Lower East Side resident said he wanted to help his favorite business owners make ends meet, as Chinatown residents and tourists alike stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“It’s the pandemic and in Chinatown there is so much street front retail and service occupations and relative to other neighborhoods its just been so devastating,” Smith said.
In the video, servers are seen trying to ardently return the large gratuity, displaying a pride that is ingrained in Chinese culture, according to Smith.
“If you are in a restaurant in China and you are treating your friend to dinner, they are going to argue with you vehemently about who pays the bill. This has been known in China to cause literal fistfights over who gets to pay the bill,” Smith said.
Eatery owners said the grand gift couldn’t have come at a better time.
“I saw $1,000 in there,” said the owner of Teado, a bubble tea shop on Hester Street, who gave his name only as Chen, after Smith bought a $1.50 milk tea.
“I tried to return it back to him. I said ‘I can’t do that. I can’t take this, it’s too much.’ Then he insists to give me that,” the tea trader said.
“We are okay, maybe the business is not that good now, not that well, but we are okay so you can give it to someone else who really need it. He said he loved us. He really wants to support us, so I took that tip,” Chen said.
Workers at Forsyth St’s Spicy Village, S Wan Cafe on Eldridge St and Chang Lai Cheong Fun Cart on Grand Street also fondly remembered Smith’s generous gift, but further discussion was hindered by a language barrier.
“We’re just hanging in there, honestly,” Spicy Village worker Wendy Li tells Smith in the video, as they chat in Mandarin.
“They’re so close. I can taste this recovery coming back, but it would be such a shame if now these restaurants were forced to close or lay off employees,” Smith said.
The champion of Chinese culture added he hopes his video will get New Yorkers to head to Canal Street and pick up their chopsticks.
“I think Chinese food is always seen as ‘oh it’s just like this cheap take out stuff or whatever,’ but these restaurants and carts really make incredible stuff that I think in another context you would look at differently,” Smith said.
The YouTuber isn’t the first New Yorker to virally spread the love to struggling food workers during the pandemic.
Last month, comedian Robyn Schall splashed $13,000 worth of tips at an Upper West Side bar as she live-streamed her meal and asked followers to donate to the staff.