Okay, we had to snark a little at the further expense of Mark Caro's profile-cum-takedown of Charlie Trotter, but we find this piece entirely admirable for 1) covering someone who's been consequential, but underreported, for a long time, 2) giving Kevin Pang something meaty to write about right up his alley (though we'd love it if he'd get more specific about food recomendations, as he did once here). The subject is Tony Hu, self-styled mayor of Chinatown, whose restaurants (Lao Sze Chuan etc.) seem to be ready to double every year or something. Pang digs into Hu's history, how he was repelled by the gloppy Ameri-Chinese he came here to cook and was determined to make authentic Chinese for what he saw as his ideal target market— Chinese students going to college in America.
We kind of knew that, but Pang delivers some things we didn't know, about how his restaurants are financed (no investors who are going to only look at the bottom line, only co-owners who will also be in the restaurant day to day), about how he wants Americans to understand how serious and artful Chinese food can be (but remains a bit torn about trying to force essentially French notions of service onto his restaurants to win over Americans; they remain sort of authentically busy and brusque, but he knows that has to change in neighborhoods like River North). And not least, about his personal life— coming to America cost him his marriage back in China, but his 20-year-old daughter is now, yes, a college student in America, at U of C. It's a thoroughly interesting and enlightening look about someone who matters to dining in Chicago a lot more than most of the people who get big glossy profiles, you are herewith sent to go read it. [Tribune]