A Chinese American man from Los Angeles is making headlines after eating at nearly 8,000 Chinese restaurants and documenting each one.
How he did it: David R. Chan, 72, started his gastronomic odyssey in the 1960s during an influx of Chinese immigration in the country. Since then, he has collected a long list of businesses he has sampled, along with their menus.
- Chan is the grandson of immigrants from China’s Guangdong Province. Despite his heritage, he did not eat Chinese food as a child, and he remembers his first taste in the 1950s as a disappointment. “The food was not sophisticated. We would go to banquets, I’d eat soy sauce on rice, and nothing else,” he told the BBC.
- In the late 1960s, a new law facilitated a spike in immigration from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. This led to more diverse Chinese cuisine in the U.S.
- Chan, then a college student, decided to explore his heritage. He started looking at the local yellow pages for Chinese restaurants. “At the beginning, it was just a search for identity,” he told BBC. “My interest in the history of Chinese in the U.S. led me to eat Chinese food and see what it was like to be Chinese in different parts of the country.”
- A retired tax lawyer, Chan keeps his restaurant conquests in a spreadsheet that he started in the early 1990s. He has not set a specific number of restaurants as a goal, but he hopes to visit as many as he can.
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What he’s learned: Having visited at least 7,812 restaurants in the U.S., Canada and Asia, Chan has become a valuable resource on Chinese food. In articles for Menuism, he goes into detail about his experiences as well as the evolution of Chinese cuisine in the U.S.
- Chan named San Gabriel Valley as the best place to find the most authentic Chinese food in the U.S.; however, he picked San Francisco when it comes to dim sum.
- Chan found one of his most disappointing Chinese meals at a town in Fargo, North Dakota, far from any Chinese community. “The fried rice was like boiled rice, and somebody poured soy sauce on it,” he told the BBC.
- While Chan has had countless Chinese meals, he says he still can’t use chopsticks. His wife, who is from China — and the one who cooks at home — reportedly remains skeptical about his expertise and is bemused at the thought of people asking her husband about Chinese food.
- Aside from his spreadsheet and a personal blog, Chan has been documenting his restaurant adventures on Instagram. As of this writing, the 72-year-old has amassed more than 9,300 followers.
Featured Images via Goldthread