'Top Chef' alum Shirley Chung wants to change the way people think about Chinese

You assume people know what Chinese food is but they don’t, They know orange chicken. … With the sandwiches, and the dumplings, it’s Chinese flavors, but we change the presentation so people understand it.

I can see saying something like that in some places, but in LA?


You’ll be surprised how many people (all my coworkers for one) think that Chinatown epitomizes the top echelon of Chinese food and doesn’t know of the existence of Chinese food in SGV.

To quote my ignorant coworker, “Chinese food is garbage and I’ve been to the restaurants in Chinatown.”

1 Like

The piece on her @eaterla Top Chef Alum Shirley Chung Opens Culver City Restaurant on October 9 - Eater LA
and @LAT were virtually the same - like both publications copied the same press release. Add both annoyed the shit out of me.


“Change the presentation of dumplings so that people understand it”

LOL come on now. A dumpling presentation is just fine, people can understand it in its original shape as they have for hundreds of years.

A cheeseburger dumpling!!! Lol

And plenty of lao wai’s love dumplings and potstickers. Ridiculous.

Why eat her dumplings when I can get homemade dumplings from family, restaurants, and SGV word-of-mouth underground market? And from Grandmas and Aunties who have done this for decades.

If her target market is lao wai’s…you don’t need to reinterpret it to make it more suitable. They are becoming more open minded.


Thanks @robert.

Why does this chef’s words sound eerily familiar in talking down to the denizens of L.A.?

  • Top Chef alum Shirley Chang: “You assume people know what Chinese food is but they don’t…” (2018)
  • Chef Andy Ricker (paraphrased): “You assume people know what Thai food is but they don’t…” (2015) (Pok Pok L.A.) - RIP

:stuck_out_tongue: :expressionless:


Great point!

That. This happens a lot with people who have migrated from cities with designated Chinatown neighborhoods.

Your descriptions remind me of an otherwise intelligent person from the NYC area. He assumed that LA’s Chinatown represented the epitome of the LA area’s Chinese cuisines. He pretty much criticized,“WTF? NYC has so much better Chinese food than LA.”

“Have you ever heard of the San Gabriel Valley.”

“Where? No…”

“This valley is about 10 minutes east of Chinatown. It’s an area that would swallow NYC in square miles, is predominantly Asian, and mostly of Chinese Asians. Drive down a major street like Valley Blvd, and I defy you to be able to read half the signage. I think if you haven’t tried the food in this area, you have no idea of the depth and breadth of what the LA area has to offer.”


This might have been pertinent in most towns other than LA. Still miss his place though.


Have to admit I want to try this Scallion Pancake Wrap:
"Chinese spiced pastrami, hazelnut pesto, Beijing mustard vinaigrette, served with salt and pepper tater tots "

In LA, everyone who read Jonathan Gold’s reviews was aware of the differences between real Chinese food and the more common pandering-to-American-palates version, even if they seldom or never went to the trouble of seeking out the real thing themselves.


i found it curious that someone that wants to educate others about chinese food talked only about flavors and nothing about textures. the curiosity morphed into skepticism based on the description of the menu in the article.

having said that, the take on the target demographic’s understanding of chinese isn’t necessarily all that off.

1 Like

And Rick Bayless quoted as using Red O to “introduce Angelinos to ‘authentic’ Mexican cuisine.”


True, but then there are all the people who didn’t read Jonathan Gold’s reviews, or worse, those who would go “ugh, Chinese food” and ignore it because they don’t like “Chinese food.”

There’s always a perception in any city that they are better informed: “Oh, we’re not like that, we’re more sophisticated.” But the truth is New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, you name it, while there are more folks more aware, the average person in any of those places still probably views Chinese food as the Americanized stuff. Not only the average person, but the vast majority.


Cue the inevitable comments section favorite: “That’s not L.A.!” :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

Using the verbiage (‘pastrami’, in this case) to draw people in…

Waiting for Shandong shakshuka, Hebei hummus, and Anhui avocado toast to appear on the menu.


I’m there.


Shandong Shakshuka=Homemade Noodles with Tomato Egg

1 Like

I don’t know, sounds like some fun combinations of flavors. Maybe more Roy Choi style fusion than SGV Chinese. I think there is plenty of room for someone to do what he does but better.

But yeah prolly not a good look to come from another city and appear to be patronizing. @BHAppeal I have a lot of respect for Rick Bayless but that annoyed the heck out of me at the time lol.

1 Like

Same here – As a native Angelo, I enjoyed Frontera Grill several times when in Chicago and was disappointed with Bayless’s off hand comments about Mexican food in LA, which as I recall he later walked back a bit by noting he had not been here in several years. Still though, as others have noted, you have to know the market. Don’t offer something at a premium price that your target market can get elsewhere at a better price, at least without adding something to make your spot standout. (RIP Pok Pok, I think is the best example of that.)