Eric Risberg/Associated Press
Chefs and restaurant owners helped change Americans’ perception of Chinese cuisine. Cecilia Chiang became a refugee twice before opening the influential San Francisco restaurant The Mandarin and teaching Chinese cuisine to Julia Child and James Beard. Chiang Kai-shek died in San Francisco on Wednesday. She is 100 years old.
The documentary “The Soul of the Banquet” explained that Chiang Kai-shek was born in a wealthy family in Shanghai with two full-time chefs-one from the north and one from the south. (This movie also features close-up shots that lure saliva, such as red boiled pork and fish stuffed with ginger and pepper. Don’t watch it when you’re hungry.) Said to the camera, front foodie Magazine editor Ruth Reichl said that food connects Chiang Kai-shek to a disappearing era: “The taste memory she has can be traced back to that era-not many people still remember that Chinese food. That great gourmet house, at that time you were a chef with classic training.”
China no longer exists. When Japan bombed Shanghai in 1937, Chiang Kai-shek had just entered university. She fled with a sister and walked hundreds of miles to Chengdu. Eighty years later, Chiang Kai-shek told NPR that they were robbed by soldiers and avoided low-flying Japanese fighter planes. She said: “Now that I think about it, I am very brave.”
After the Communist Party took over, Jiang had to flee home for the second time. She was traumatized in the United States, where food that most Americans believed to be Chinese shocked and amused her, such as offal.
She smiled and said, “They think chopped-off is the only thing we have in China.” “What a pity.”
Therefore, Chiang Kai-shek decided to open a high-end Chinese restaurant offering authentic cuisine. She recalled: “Everyone said,’You can’t do it. You can’t speak English. You know nothing.’ But since 1961, from Mae West to John Lennon ) Tourists, VIPs and celebrities flocked to unfamiliar food at the time, such as tea-smoked duck and twice-boiled pork.
Today, Cecelia Chiang’s DNA can be found in American Chinese food. Her son founded the PF Chang’s chain, and her chef’s son founded Panda Express.
In early 2017, Chiang Kai-shek told NPR how she lived to be so old: “I have been thinking about the good and good aspects of everything. I never thought about it, Oh, I am going to fail. Oh, I can’t do it. Oh, I feel sorry for myself.“
Instead, Chiang Kai-shek wrote some books, starred in the PBS documentary series, and won the most prestigious award in the American culinary world (awarded by the James Beard Foundation) when she was 93 years old.