KANSAS CITY, Kan. — For 50 years, chef Annie Der has filled the hearts and stomachs of customers in and around Kansas City, Kansas.
“I feel so much love from everybody, and also I feel so much love for them, too. Very, very happy,” said Der, owner of Tao Tao Chinese Restaurant.
Der and her family have been in business since February 12, 1972.
“I’m 93, and I’ve been coming here since they opened up,” said long-time customer Jack Simon. "She’s my mother away from home, I guess. She always has a good thing to say to me."
Customers tell KSHB 41 News Der has been more than just a friendly face — she's someone they can count on.
“When I met Annie, I was 19. It was before I had children — my oldest daughter is 26. When I met Annie, I was going through a lot in life, and she took me under her wing and said, 'It’s going to be okay, it already is,'” said Yolonda McGregor, long-time customer of Tao Tao Chinese Restaurant.
Now 50 years later, standing the test of time, Tao Tao Chinese Restaurant and Der's love has made a mark on her community.
“She’s not about money, she’s about serving others. Every day she does it in quietness, in silence, she does it in secret,” said Tina Der, Annie Der's daughter.
Tina Der told KSHB 41 her mother gives food to customers who support her day in and day out as well as to those who cannot afford to buy themselves a hot meal.
“Well when I think about myself, if one day I don’t have food to eat and someone give me some food, I’d be really appreciative," Annie Der said. "I see them, and they don’t have food to eat, and they don’t have money to buy the food they need to feed them."
After decades of serving KCK, Der's family and community poured out to 13th and Minnesota Avenue on Saturday to support the woman who poured out her heart to serve others.
“Now, therefore, I, Tyrone Garner, Mayor CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, do hereby and proclaim Saturday, February 12, 2022, Chef Annie Day. Tao Tao Day,” KCK Mayor Tyrone Garner said at the event.
At 75 years old as of Thursday, Der thanks the people of Wyandotte County but says not to worry, she’s got a long way to go.
“I do what I can, I do until I cannot do. I take care of the neighborhood,” Der said.