2016.037.004 Oral History Interview with Chris Cheung 2015/11/01
Chris Cheung is a Chinese-American chef who owns the restaurant, East Wind Snack Shop. He was raised in Chinatown and Bensonhurst, exposing him to both Chinese and Italian food at a young age. He grew up in 1970s and 1980s New York and recalls generational differences in Chinese restaurants. The teahouses that he enjoyed as a child have transformed. As Cheung grew older, he worked at several Asian restaurants. He began to work with high profile names in the culinary world; he learned technical skills. When Cheung took a trip to a rural village off the coast of Shanghai, he experienced cooking daily banquets. Afterwards, he studied with a Hong Kong dim sum master, who helped him perfect his craft. As Cheung ancestry is from Toisan, China, he was inspired to recreate a Toisan teahouse. East Wind Snack Shop specializes in dumplings, baos, and dim sum. Cheung wanted to revive the community aspect the teahouses brought; these teahouses were replaced by bakeries. Cheung explains the way Asian cuisine has no weight in the culinary world. He hopes that his legacy will pave a way for Chinese cuisine to enter the mainstream and serve many.

0:00 - Grandparents settled from Toisan, China, Grew up in Chinatown and Bensonhurst, East Wind Snack Shop is inspired by Toisan teahouses, Rural peasant cuisine turned gourmet, Working class neighborhood.

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4:21 - Chinese soups were made for health, Bitter herbs in soups, Noisy teahouses had different classes of people, Moving out of Chinatown, Started school in Brooklyn, Mother worked at the garment sweatshops.

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10:28 - Helping out in the kitchen was mandatory, Started as a prep cook at a comedy club, Culinary school, Internship program at Thai restaurant, Worked with Ed Brown, Nobu in Tribeca in early nineties.

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15:46 - Worked at Thaifoon Brewery, High class restaurant John George, Learned the French and European styles, Did not eat high class while working, Time perfecting craft, Learning to source products.

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21:58 - Open restaurant reminiscent of a Teahouse style, Generational difference, Bakeries replaced Teahouses, Felt that a cooking culture was lost.

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27:13 - 1970s - 1980s New York, Grew up near gangs, Violence was frequent, Whole community knew each other, Asian cuisine is not ethnically specific, Chinese cuisine transformed respectability, Worked as a manager for an Asian fusion restaurant.

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34:42 - Elite Chinese restaurant, Learned from other Chefs, Visited China at the coast of Shanghai, Cooked banquets in village, Fresh food from farm.

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39:56 - Learned from Hong Kong Dim Sum Master, Laid the basis to be a chef, Chinese food created through survival, Cooking for ourselves is different from the culinary aspect, Chinese immigrants made food for survival and business, Interest in Chinese food growing.

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47:02 - East Wind Snack Shop menu has seven items, Known for dumplings, Both the chef and the cook, Specific measures for dumplings, Chasing the perfect dumpling.

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53:34 - Legacy to leave behind, Depiction of Chinese food in culinary world, Do not forget roots of Chinese cuisine.

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