TAMPA — On March 9, Greg Baker was furiously busy getting his restaurant's food booth ready for the Gasparilla Music Festival. But the famous chef and co-owner of the Refinery took the time to help out another independent restaurateur in need.
"Hey, Tampa folks, the folks at Pho An Hoa (one of Chef's favorite lunch spots) were held up at gunpoint Thursday and lost a week's deposits," he posted on the restaurant's Facebook page. "They're hurting for money because of that. Could ya show them some love if you're craving some good Vietnamese?"
Dozens of people responded, saying they either went to the restaurant at 2730 W Waters Ave. in Tampa or that they made plans to go. Nearly 70 people shared it with their friends.
That makes Henry Nguyen, the 56-year-old owner of Pho An Hoa, feel good. The robbery was traumatic. Nguyen and his wife closed the restaurant just before 11 p.m. March 7 and were headed to their car. Two masked men jumped them, one pressing a gun to Nguyen's chest, the other holding it to his wife's head, he said. They took everything the couple had on them, including $6,000 in cash. Nguyen had been too busy to make deposits that week.
"It was a bad luck day," he said.
Nguyen, the father of three young children, said business has been slow. He's working seven days a week, 15 hours a day.
"I feel really bad," he said. "That's money I'm working really hard for."
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said the two suspects remain at large.
Baker, a 2013 James Beard Foundation semifinalist for best chef in the South, found out about the robbery after seeing Nguyen at a market. He wanted to do what he could to help.
"There's a lot of people that think there's competition among restaurants, but it's really a community that makes our food vibrant here," Baker said. "Helping each other out is how small businesses survive."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3405.