Cecilia Chiang, in Her Own Words At 98, the iconic San Francisco restaurateur is as bold as ever. Now, she shares her life story with her friend, pastry chef Belinda Leong.

first paragraph:

t’s not an understatement to call Cecilia Chiang one of San Francisco’s most beloved culinary figures. Her first restaurant in town, the Mandarin, opened in 1961 — a time when the white Americans she needed to support her business were far more familiar with egg foo young and chop suey than they were with the traditional dishes she served, like beggar’s chicken and smoked tea duck. Like many restaurateurs, it took Cecilia some time to find her groove in San Francisco, but she did — and by 1968, she moved the Mandarin to a bigger space in Ghirardelli Square, where she presided for over 20 years. Then came the Mandarin Beverly Hills. And then came two more restaurants. Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower attended her cooking classes. Her cookbook is a must-have for anyone interested in Chinese cooking.

other excerpts:

Finally it’s full. People were lining up: Because of the Herb Caen article, they wanted to come. I said, “What is Herb Caen? Who is Herb Caen?” People told me he’s the one that can make you, can break you. So Herb Caen really helped me a lot. The dinners really turned around.

She is plugged into the restaurant scene today — she says her favorite restaurants right now are Benu and Z & Y — and is still known for having a razor-sharp palate.

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