Award-winning author and activist Grace Young The mission is to support struggling Chinatown communities across the country.Recently awarded a $50,000 grant Julia Children’s Fund will move towards her goal. We chat with the prolific author and humanitarian about some of her favorite San Francisco attractions and her funding plans.
sweet childhood memories
Young is known for encouraging Chinese home cooking and wok traditions on multiple platforms.Her winning recipes include TonWisdom of the Chinese Kitchen: Classic Family Recipes to Celebrate and Treat, fried to the sky and The Wisdom of a Chinese Kitchen. her series Wok Healer and The smell of the wok Like her appearances in America’s Test Kitchen, both on YouTube, it’s called The Epic Wok. Her nickname is Wok Master.
She is also an activist working to draw attention to traditional businesses in Chinatowns hard-hit by the pandemic and the anti-Asian hate crimes associated with them.
“I was born and raised in San Francisco and have many fond memories of visiting Chinatown. These legacy businesses are the heart and soul of the community, and we have lost a lot during the pandemic,” she said.
Among her hometown favorites, Far East Cafe will be among the recipients of Yang’s partial funding. “This is one of the oldest banquet restaurants and the only one left in San Francisco,” she said. “That tradition is gone, but it used to be a banquet on any occasion. During the pandemic, the Far East is cooking for Feed and Fuel, an organization that tackles food insecurity.”
Young lovingly described the architectural features of the 102-year-old restaurant, adding that “the thought that we could lose this business is heartbreaking.”
Side note: The Far East Cafe is the subject of a short film that debuts in the new season Chinatown Shorts.
The author/activist also has love and respect for Tane Chan, the 80-something owner of The Wok Shop. “She’s never closed during a pandemic. She’s a national treasure.”
As long as you go to the stamp-sized wok shop, it’s best to stop at the Oriental Bakery for mooncakes. “They’re just the best. No one can come close,” said Yang, who always ordered lotus seed mooncakes or salted duck egg yolks. “Those are just heaven and give me a sense of nostalgia. My mom would buy them when I was a kid.”
Jumping into a time machine, Young recalls going to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory with his father. “They’ve really suffered during the pandemic. I’m worried about them,” she said. Like New York City, San Francisco’s Chinatown is reliant on tourists, and while visitor numbers are slowly picking up, they are still not at their pre-pandemic levels. That’s why it’s so important to support these businesses. This place is a very important part of the Chinatown community. “
Young also loves R&G Lounge, which has been around for decades and wowed diners with its Hong Kong-style Cantonese cuisine. “The soy sauce chicken, steamed fish, eggplant stuffed with prawns were all done perfectly. The kung pao and pea sprouts were amazing.”
Among the newcomers nearby, Yang especially shouted to Mr. Jiu. “It’s a modern take, but what he’s done is a lot of respect for the old business.” She called chef/owner Brandon Jewish, and the food was excellent. “Everything from the tons of squid ink to the delicious Peking duck and fried soles is absolutely delicious,” she said of the James Beard Award-winning menu.
Other traditional businesses on Young’s must-try list:
Watch a documentary about the Far East Cafe’s struggle to survive: