MOCA 31st Legacy Gala Awards

Article by Jazmin Justo

The Museum of Chinese in America hosted its 31st Legacy Awards Gala at the Astoria Waldrof Hotel in celebration of the great success of its recent exhibition “Sweet Sour Bitter Spicy”. At the gala, featured chefs from the exhibition were awarded along with other Asian American professionals who have made significant contributions to society.

The main focus of the exhibition “Sweet Sour Bitter Spicy”, is on the transformation of Chinese cuisine in the United States from the first restaurant pioneers to today’s modern chefs. Some of the 33 featured Chinese and Asian American chefs are Jonathan Wu (New York, NY), Doron Wong (New York, NY), Wenbin Yuan (Brookfield, WI), Chris Yeo (San Jose, CA), Ho-chin Yang (San Mateo, CA), Ming Tsai (Wellesley, MA), Kimmie Lee Tie (Raleigh, NC), Doniyar Sobitov (Brooklyn, NY),Vivian Ku (Los Angeles, CA), Jeff Gao (Boulder, CO), Susanna Foo (Radnor, PA), Phillip Chiang (Los Angeles, CA), Nancy Chen (Naperville, IL), and David Bowien (New York, NY).

The exhibition featured a long dining table with ceramic sculptures created by local New York artists, Heidi Lau and Lu Zhang. Each sculpture was inspired by each chef’s signature dish. Attendees are allowed to sit at the table and read about each chef’s story into the culinary world and the history behind each dish. What also makes the banquet intriguing is its ability to represent diverse histories and over 18 different regional cooking styles in one place.

Meanwhile, large projected screens narrate the chefs personal stories in four different intervals, Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Spicy. The title of the exhibition in Chinese, reflects on the delicate balance of flavors that defines Chinese cooking, but also the ups and downs of life. During the Sweet interval, chefs talk about what makes them happy as chefs and their happiest moments with food. During the Sour interval, chefs spoke about trivial matters about the food business. During the Bitter interval chefs spoke about their toughest moments of their careers. During the Spicy interval, chefs spoke about their most passionate moments. Each chef’s story is unique to his/her own experiences growing up in the United States and how they incorporated the American food that they love with their heritage. The exhibition also included artifacts donated by the chefs such as wooden moon cake molds from Wilson Tang and a noodle cutting knife from Jason Wang. The exhibition has been successful for its incorporation of multimedia, art and artifacts to illustrate the history of Chinese food in America and its impact on families and society as a whole.

Featured Chefs
Chef / Author of “To the People. Heaven is Food”, Audra Ang
Chef / Founder of China Grill, Peter Chang
Chef / Founder of East Wind Snack Shop, Chris Cheung
Chef / Immigration Judge, George Chew
Chef / Founder of Mandarin Restaurant, Cecilia Chiang
Home Cooks Sally and Gilroy Chow
Chef / Owner of Susanna Foo Chinese Cuisine and Suilan, Susanna Foo
Chef/ Author of “Red Cook”, Kian Lam Kho
Home Cook Yvette Lee
Chef / Owner of Annisa Restaurant, Anita Lo
Chef / Co-owner of La Grande Estrella, Leonard Liao
Chef / Co-founder of Shun Lee Palace, Michael Tong
Chef / Manager of Xian Famous Foods, Jason Wang
Chef / Author of “Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge”, Grace Young

Gala Honorees

The Wah Family, Dr. Robert Wah, Ms. Muriel Wah, and Mr. David Wah
Actor BD Wong

Honorary Co-Chairs
Time and Nina Zagat from Zagat Survey

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