Sunday, 5 December 2010

Before Mr. Chow

There was John J. Kan (1905-1972). More commonly known as Johnny Kan,  the man who introduced Peking duck to the American palate and also the man who taught Danny Kaye to cook. Originally a native of Portland Oregon, Mr. Kan was both a fixture and a force in San Francisco's Chinatown - his home since the age of four. 

This unusual photograph appeared in the March 1941 edition of San Francisco Life, a tourist publication that featured restaurants that paid for advertisements in the magazine. The photo was taken at Cathay House, 718 California, at Grant Ave., probably in January or early February 1941. - San Francisco Museum

In 1935 he opened the first large soda fountain and Chinese bakery in San Francisco's Chinatown and originated (what today would be called fusion) flavoured ices such as lychee, kumquat and ginger. In 1940 he initiated the Chinese Kitchen, a venture said to be the first delivery of Chinese food. And, after his service with the Army in World War II he opened Kan's Restaurant at 708 Grant Avenue. It was to become one of the finest, Chinese or otherwise, restaurants in San Francisco.

 In 1959 Mr. Kan commissioned artist Jake Lee (1911-1991) to paint a series of twelve watercolours depicting the ignominies and the glories of early Chinese American history. These paintings hung in the private  Gum Shan (Gold Mountain) dining room. 

Sometime after the death of Mr. Kan in 1972  the works disappeared. For decades they were believed to have been lost. That is, until eleven of the works surfaced at auction in Los Angeles in 2010.  Now, for the the first time in almost 30 years the complete series of paintings will be exhibited. On 12th February, 2011 the Chinese Historical Society of America will stage  Finding Jake Lee: The Paintings at Kan’s.

Now playing: Jerry Goldsmith - Love Theme from Chinatown


columnist said...

I followed that auction in LA. Thanks for the provenance. They went for a pretty penny if I recall.

mamacita said...

Mrs. Rivera. LOL.

Anonymous said...

these are wonderful, nice story thank you.