Johnny Kan was the first pioneer to promote authentic, Cantonese haute cuisine, both in San Francisco's Chinatown and throughout America-at-large. Kan's lifelong campaign to extricate chop suey from Chinese cuisine and initiate American palates to refined, high-end Cantonese gastronomy is well-documented in San Francisco's annals, particularly through the coruscating pen of San Francisco's beloved raconteur, Herb Caen. Through the décor and the dining rituals of his establishments, Kan also crafted a visual, experiential, and taste aesthetic that was a significant departure from the plate-slamming, indifferent post-World War II chop suey joints of his day. Kan was rightfully Chinatown's first and inimitable culinary ambassador, through the many ways in which he exalted true Cantonese gastronomy with flair, set the restaurant standard to beat from the 1940s until his death in the 1972, and worked with civic influencers to reshape Chinatown's appeal and historical significance.
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Research Article| November 01 2017
Johnny Kan: The Untold Story of Chinatown's Greatest Culinary Ambassador
april chan is a Master's Candidate at the University of the Pacific's graduate food studies program, the first of its kind on the West Coast.
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California History (2017) 94 (4): 4–22.
April Chan; Johnny Kan: The Untold Story of Chinatown's Greatest Culinary Ambassador. California History 1 November 2017; 94 (4): 4–22. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ch.2017.94.4.4
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