Check it: The Merc is hot on the trail of Zhongyi Liu, former executive chef of the Grand Hotel Beijing who created a cult following for Albany’s China Village. Seems the award-winning chef has quietly picked up and hauled off to Fresno, where he can finally open his own restaurant. And Bay Area residents are following. So much for eating locally!
“Before, we were all working for others,” Zhongyi Liu says. “This was the chance we had to start our own business.”
But there was a problem. Hunan’s old customers, accustomed to the former owner’s Chinese-American dishes, had a hard time adjusting to Zhongyi Liu’s regional Northern food and Sichuan cuisine. With the restaurant struggling, one of the owners left the business and returned to the Bay Area.
The longtime customers would say: “We came to Hunan Restaurant. We want a Hunan dinner,” says Hunan co-owner Kathy Kao.
As Zhongyi Liu was coaxing guests to move beyond Chinese chicken salad and General Tso chicken, his Bay Area fans were looking for him.
And now that they’ve found him, they’re willing to drive down there to eat, even organizing banquets, through Chowhound, at his Hunan Restaurant. Maybe this Fresno adventure will be a success? Or perhaps, if we’re lucky, Liu will get a break and open a new restaurant around here. Cross your fingers for that. Or just gas up the car.
Top Chinese chef finds a home in Fresno and Bay Area fans are flocking to his restaurant [San Jose Mercury News]
Hunan Chef’s Tasting Menu - Oct 18, 08 (Fresno) [Chowhound]
The Hunan Restaurant [Official Site]
[Photo: Via The Hunan Restaurant]