By: Sydnee Winston, Project Coordinator
Egg Rolls, egg drop soup, lo mein…sometimes your taste buds get an inescapable hankering for some of these classic delicious Chinese foods— and with the bevy of Chinese restaurants that are present in local communities and nationally (Panda Express, PF Chang’s, etc.) there are lots of options. But back in 1958, those options were nearly nonexistent. Chinese restaurants may be a common sight across America today, but such eateries were hard to come by 60 years ago.
Enter Joyce Chen.
Joyce, an immigrant who had left Communist China in 1949, opened her very popular restaurant in 1958 near Harvard and MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was a tiny takeout dive that was so popular that she ended up opening two other restaurants that were “sit down” style and fancier. Joyce loved to cook and her egg rolls were a hit at school bake sales. She often taught cooking classes in her home. She was encouraged to start the restaurant by Asian students from Shanghai who were at MIT who were so homesick for the kind of food she prepared that they lent her the start-up money.
In 1968 Joyce starred in her own TV cook show, which aired on PBS, called Joyce Chen Cooks. It was filmed on the same set as Julia Child’s The French Chef (see last week’s Foodie Friday post for more info about Julia Child)!
Joyce is credited for introducing Americans to mandarin style food and is one of many entrepreneurial women featured in our newest exhibit “From Ideas to Independence: A Century of Entrepreneurial Women.” Click here to learn more: http://entrepreneurs.nwhm.org/#/introduction/1
Don’t forget to stay tuned for next week’s Foodie Friday post.