There’s a fairly good possibility, we know, that you don’t follow the Chinese news service Xinhuanet.com, so allow us to call your attention to an interesting piece published in it today, profiling Tony Hu. Tony Who? Exactly; while the owner of Lao Sze Chuan, Lao Hunan, etc. is certainly not a totally unknown figure, and in fact is fairly celebrated in certain corners of our food media scene, we’d still consider him and his restaurants far less talked about than others dabbling in Asian cuisines to less effect and importance. So we’re glad to see a full-scale profile by two authors (who must be based here, given their familiarity with the restaurant scene in Chicago) which fills in a lot of information about how he became the self-styled “mayor of Chinatown” with his quintet of regional Chinese restaurants in Chicago (plus two more of his flagship, Lao Sze Chuan, in the burbs). Here’s some of what we learned.
• He came to the US in 1993 because of an employment agency, China Smart Sourcing, which specialized in recruiting chefs from Sichuan at that time. His first job was at 600 N. Michigan (we assume the old Szechwan House).
• His restaurants are all named “Lao” because it means “old,” in the sense of traditional.
• However, his traditional dishes “must currently be popular in China, and he visits China frequently to make sure this is the case.”
• He had a cooking show on Channel 13 when he was first here, circa 1994. (Hu knew?)