Assembly: Phil Ting

K-Elements Earns Award

When you walk by 23rd Avenue and Clement Street in the Outer Richmond District, you can tell the grill at K-Elements BBQ is fired up. The smell of the Kalbi Short Ribs and Beef Bulgogi tease our senses. While the 5-year-old restaurant does a great job of filling our stomachs, I want to recognize the way they nourish community.

Owners Tony Lau and Alfred Lee went into the restaurant business without any experience running one. Lau’s background is a civil engineer, while Lee is a finance expert. But, they took a leap of faith anyway. While creating their business model, they made sure it included a philanthropic mission. To them, it wasn’t just about having a successful restaurant. It was also about giving back to the community. Their generosity and dedication to the Richmond – in fact, all of San Francisco – has earned K-Elements BBQ the honor of earning my Assembly District’s Small Business of the Year Award.

The impacts of their contributions are too long to list, but we can start with their desire to address hunger over the holidays. Before the pandemic hit, Lau and Lee opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day in 2018 and 2019 to feed more than 100 seniors from Self-Help for the Elderly, so they could celebrate together. Last year, with COVID-19 still influencing whether or not people went out to eat, they resorted to delivering holiday meals to families living in SROs, enlisting the help of Community Youth Center and One Richmond for distribution.

Most recently, K-Elements provided lunch to the nearly 100 volunteers and performers at the Richmond District Autumn Moon Festival, held on Sept. 17. They have done this every year since the start of the festival six years ago. 

And their generosity doesn’t just center on food. In 2020, to honor the memory of a beloved relative, Lau and Lee gave away 300 embroidered blankets to families in need and people experiencing homelessness. They’ve also given away backpacks to children, so they’re prepared for school. In addition, the two men invited students from nearby Alamo Elementary School to use their planter boxes outside their restaurant as a way to learn about gardening. If you’ve been by the corner restaurant, beautiful greenery lines the outside walls. In return for their great work, families in need from the school can come by the restaurant at closing to pick up any extra food. 

When the pandemic hit, the restaurant had to shut down, like most businesses. When it was time to slowly reopen, the tables were turned, and the community was there for the restaurant. People started hosting gatherings and called K-Elements for big to-go orders. When schools and nonprofits held events, they asked Lau and Lee to cater them. It was enough to keep the restaurant afloat.

Re-opening hasn’t been easy. Since pandemic restrictions were lifted to allow indoor operations to resume, dine and dash customers have left without paying, and vandals have marked up their property with graffiti. Still, Lau and Lee refused to accept a mini grant earmarked for local businesses to increase security. They said that money can be awarded to others who need it more.

Such selflessness has been remarkable. The lesson here is when we’re here for each other, our community can do great things.

Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma, and Daly City as well as part of South San Francisco. Find an archive of his columns at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s