On the occasion of Cecilia Chiang's passing, three industry vets share memories of the iconic and game-changing San Francisco restauranteur.
MICHAEL DELLAR, CO-OWNER OF ONE MARKET
“I first met Cecilia Chiang as a guest at the Mandarin restaurant in Ghirardelli Square when I moved to the Bay Area in 1970, at age 24, to work in brand management at the Clorox Company in Oakland. I so enjoyed my many lunches and dinners in her elegant restaurant, with tasty delights I had never experienced before. Viewed as a food aficionado by our ad agency, Honig Cooper & Harrington, I was asked to find a spot for the annual post-budget meeting celebration. I had no other place in mind than the Mandarin. I met with Cecilia, who planned a banquet fit for the emperor. I expected no less. (And I was a hero with my team.)
Over the years, as I moved into the restaurant business, our paths would cross for dining room discussions in Cecilia’s restaurant or mine, festive occasions or industry charitable events. Throughout, she was never without a smile or an enthusiastic greeting or an idea. I last saw her in October 2018, at age 99. Her smile was as big as ever.
All in our industry and beyond are grateful to have learned from her dignity, spirit, hospitality and culinary jubilation.”
KASH FENG, OWNER OF OMAKASE
“Cecilia was a dear friend of many. I’m lucky to have gotten to know her over the years, hear her stories and share a similar passion for bringing Chinese cuisine to San Francisco. Ever since we were introduced when she came to visit and try Dumpling Time for the first time, we instantly connected over our recipes, our heritage and our love for the restaurant industry. She was a person who loved to connect people together. I met so many wonderful people in the industry that I now consider a great friend all because of her.”
SCOTT HOWARD, CO-FOUNDER OF CRAVE HOSPITALITY GROUP
“Of course there’s so many things that stood out about Cecilia, but having the opportunity to travel with her was such an exciting adventure! On trips to New York and Tokyo, I was always amazed at her continuous curiosity, being in tune with the latest trends and knowing which chefs and restaurants were the hot spots at the moment. She was always recognized and really enjoyed getting into conversations around food and culture and ultimately threw in some words of wisdom.”
Photography by: PHOTO BY DREW ALTIZER