UPDATE: Chef and food writer Doreen Fang was emcee for the cooking competition at last year's Chinatown Summer Nights. Join her again this year as she offers her energetic culinary expertise this Saturday, September 10, 2011 from 5pm-10pm.
Being that I am Chinese American, I haven't been to Chinatown in years and having cities like Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rowland Heights around, all filled with Chinese restaurants on every corner, I had forgotten about Chinatown and the different restaurants out there. It wasn't till I received an email from Tamara O'Connor from CARS (Community Arts Resources) asking me to emcee the last night of Chinatown Summer Nights did I finally have a chance to get reacquainted with a place from my childhood.
When Tamara told me what Chinatown Summer Nights was all about, my heart immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of this event and to help share part of my heritage to so many others who weren't familiar with it. I was thrilled and honored to have been asked to emcee the last night of this spectacular month long event.
I had the wonderful opportunity to check out second weekend of festivities as a reveler and had invited a friend to join me. We had such a great time exploring all the little shops, one of my favorites is the Flock Shop, and finding great deals and bargains all around us. So many restaurants to try, and now that I know they exist, I can come back again and again! We ended up dancing the night away on the KCRW dance floor and while we were dancing, we bumped into some friends who were huge fans of DJ Anthony Valadez.
That was such a fun night and it really made me fall in love with Chinatown.
The most amazing part of this whole experience for me was having the opportunity to meet some of the Chefs and owners of five of the restaurants in Chinatown. First, Chef Paulo Soares of Queee Sushi Station & Portuguese Cuisine, Chef Lupe Liang of Hop Woo, Suphakorn of Wu Ha Thai Noodle, Mr. Wong of Golden City and his Chef Da Fang Xuan, and Chef Cai from Mandarin Chauteau.
I had the chance to sit and talk to each of them and not only got to eat their delicious food, but more importantly hear their stories about where they came from, how they started and where they are today. Every single chef that I spoke with has such incredible passion for food and cooking, all from the time they were young kids. Food is in their blood and despite the long hours of cooking and running a business, they still haven't lost that love for wanting to create dishes that tantalize and delight the palettes of each customer that walks in their door.
After talking to each one of them, I felt so such a closeness to them, and of course had to hug each of them. Suphrakorn from Wu Ha Thai Noodle reminded me so much of my mom, which seriously brings tears to my eyes...Chef Lupe and his wife Judy were like a fun and super generous uncle and aunt. Chef Paulo was so nice, but busy, busy, busy....but again...extremely generous and kind. Chef Cai was just sweet and smiley, like a cute little uncle you just want to take home in your pocket and he'd cook for you all day long! Mr. Wong cared dearly about his food and again...by the end of our talk...I just got another uncle.
I absolutely love talking to people and getting to know them, hearing their stories about how they got to where they are today. After all our meetings, I started my 2.5 hour drive home in traffic, and as I thought about each person and the stories they shared with me, I had tears streaming down my face. Each of these chefs works so hard, and the life of a chef definitely is not an easy one.
I knew in my heart that my goal was to highlight each chef in the best possible way so that everyone would not only know how great their food was, but to also feel a connection to each chef the way I did. After the each demonstration I know that people actually did go to the various restaurants and were all very happy with the food.
So, I hope that Chinatown and all of the restaurants and shops that were highlighted throughout the entire month of August will continue to have people coming back for more...I know that I will definitely be going back and am continuing to share my new found little restaurant gems with friends and family.
A huge thank you to everyone at CARS (Community Arts Resources), the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) and Chinatown BID (Business Improvement District) for inviting me to be part of something very special.