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Her lengthy black hair piled atop her head and beautiful in a floor-length silk robe, Madame Sylvia Wu would step from her Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and — smiling broadly — push open the crimson double doorways of her pagoda-style restaurant, already teeming with prospects.

On a given night time, Frank Sinatra and his younger bride, Mia Farrow, could be having fun with a plate of Wu’s beef, stir-fried shards of flank steak with onions and oyster sauce. Mae West confirmed up on Sundays and faithfully ordered the chilly melon soup, whereas Gregory Peck and Paul Newman fancied the shrimp toast and crab puffs. Princess Grace of Monaco gushed concerning the Peking roast duck.

For many years Madame Wu’s Backyard in Santa Monica was the place well dressed Hollywood A-listers huddled within the Imperial Room with its jade and rose quartz statues whereas birds chirped in vintage cages and koi slowly glided within the elegant fountain.

In an period when chop suey and Basic Tso’s hen handed for genuine Chinese language delicacies, the restaurant’s menu was a step ahead, although nonetheless light-years from the range and authenticity of at present’s culinary scene in food-crazy Los Angeles. However it mattered little, for Wu was at all times the star attraction as she drifted from desk to desk, huddled with the cooks or grabbed the cellphone and took takeout orders.

“All people on this city is aware of Madame Wu,” the late tv host Merv Griffin as soon as informed The Occasions, summing up the town’s shared affection for the restaurateur. “One of many dearest, sweetest, most elegant girls I’ve ever identified.”

A bundle of vitality who slowed down solely barely in retirement, Wu died Sept. 29 at 106.

In its heyday, Madame Wu’s Backyard was a welcoming beacon on Wilshire Boulevard, effervescent with exercise and filled with the Hollywood elite. It seated 300, had stone waterfalls, daring crimson murals and Tang Dynasty horses painted on the partitions, as if trotting towards the kitchen.

Elizabeth Taylor got here in after the premier of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Robert Redford at all times requested for Sales space 55, secluded in a darkish nook. Mary and Jack Benny celebrated their forty sixth anniversary, simply weeks earlier than the actor’s loss of life. Cary Grant taught the restaurateur the right way to make shredded hen salad, which rapidly turned a home favourite.

When she closed the restaurant in 1998, as tastes within the metropolis shifted and she or he spoke longingly of spending extra time together with her grandchildren, she instantly regretted the choice and opened Madame Wu’s Asian Bistro & Sushi within the then newly opened Grove. Although the brand new restaurant vanished rapidly, affection for Madame Wu didn’t. When she turned 100 in 2014, her previous prospects stuffed up a lodge ballroom for her birthday celebration. By American calculations although, she was solely 99.

Born Oct. 24, 1915, Sylvia Cheng grew up in Jiujiang, a metropolis southwest of Shanghai on the banks of the Yangtze River. Her well-to-do mother and father separated when she was a baby and died whereas she was nonetheless younger. She was raised by her paternal grandfather, a beneficiant and cultured man who owned a division retailer and a financial institution. Her love of cooking was born whereas secretly watching the maid put together meals for the household.

Earlier than World Battle II broke out, the household moved to Shanghai after which Hong Kong. When a pal provided her a one-way ticket on a New York-bound ocean liner, she took it, although cautiously.

“I don’t know the way I had the braveness,” she later recalled. “I had no household in America. The journey took 40 days, and due to the warfare there was a blackout all the way in which.”

Whereas pursuing an schooling diploma at Columbia College, she met King Yan Wu, a profitable chemist who’d just lately graduated from MIT. They married, had three youngsters and moved to L.A., the place an engineering job at Hughes Plane Co. awaited her husband.

She was instantly appalled by the heavy faux-Cantonese dishes she encountered within the metropolis’s Chinese language eating places.

“Chop suey all over the place,” she complained to USA At the moment. “All you see are chop suey homes.”

With time on her palms after her youngsters went off to boarding colleges, Wu opened her restaurant in 1959, first in a small location after which to the far bigger website, now occupied by a Complete Meals grocery retailer. To drum up enterprise she wrote a letter to members of her church and requested a pal, who was a studio govt, to unfold the phrase about Madame Wu’s Backyard. It labored.

“We offered out the primary night time and other people have been lined up outdoors for six months,” she informed KCET in 2015.

Enterprise hummed alongside for the subsequent 39 years till hipper and extra informal Chinese language eating places opened their doorways. Alongside the way in which, Wu wrote cookbooks, appeared frequently on tv and threw herself into charity work, significantly at Metropolis of Hope most cancers heart after her daughter, Loretta, died of breast most cancers at 34.

Wu is survived by sons George and Patrick and quite a few grandchildren. Her husband died in 2011. The 2 had been married 67 years.

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