Joyce Chen Cook Book

Cover of Joyce Chen Cook Book
Adoption Amount: $300
Category: Build and Access the Collection
Location: National Museum of American History Library

Joyce Chen Cook Book

By Joyce Chen. Philadelphia : J.B. Lippincott, 1962.

In late 1966, a new show made its debut on public television – Joyce Chen Cooks. It was the first nationally syndicated cooking show in America hosted by a woman of color, and it was filmed on the same set as Julia Child's well-known show, The French Chef. For many viewers, Joyce Chen Cooks provided their first glimpse of Chinese style cooking.

Joyce Chen emigrated with her family from Shanghai in 1949, leaving on the second-to-last boat before that port closed due to the Chinese Communist takeover. The Chen family settled in Cambridge, MA. For a fundraiser at her children's school, where they were the only Asian-American students, Chen brought egg rolls and pumpkin cookies. They sold out within an hour, giving Chen the idea to capitalize on her cooking skills. She opened her first restaurant, the Joyce Chen Restaurant, in Cambridge in 1958, featuring Mandarin and Shanghainese dishes adapted to American tastes. Chen pioneered an all-you-can-eat buffet and menus with numbered dishes to make communication between Chinese speaking staff and English speaking customers easier. She also taught Chinese cooking at adult education centers in Cambridge and Boston.

In 1962 she published the Joyce Chen Cook Book, featuring more than 80 Chinese recipes adapted to use ingredients readily available to American cooks. It includes chapters on Chinese seasonings and spices, cooking utensils, making perfect rice, and how to use chopsticks. It even offers a tear-out shopping list at the back! Chen's influential book and TV show introduced a wider audience to Chinese food and cooking techniques. This 1962 edition in the NMAH Library supports research for the food and culinary history program at the museum.

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