The Chinese American Museum of Chicago (CAMOC) opened the new mini exhibition, Era of Opulence: Chinese Fine Dining, Saturday, April 24. The main exhibition called Chinese Cuisine in America: Stories, Struggles and Successes is scheduled for opening in the Fall of 2022.
The new exhibition next year will delve into the unique, historical aspects of the Chinese diaspora told through the successful acculturation of Chinese cuisine in America. Chinese Americans achieved successes despite early targeted legislative, legal and labor union barriers, and even media scrutiny. Starting with the extraordinary popularity of chop suey to more authentic regional cuisines and delicacies, the exhibit explores the proliferation of Chinese restaurants in the United States. The exhibition also acknowledges the plight of the current pandemic which has taken its toll on the restaurant industry, especially Chinese restaurants, along with drawing parallels to the recent rise in hate crimes against the Asian community.
To whet your appetite, this mini-exhibit Era of Opulence: Chinese Fine Dining focuses on local area exquisite Chinese restaurants. It highlights the immigrant struggles spurred on by the Long Depression (1873 -1896) leading to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, and the success story of restaurateur, Chin F. Foin. In 1906, Foin with two non- Chinese partners, Baohuanghui (Emperor Protection Association) backing and a string of restaurants, reportedly invested $100,000 (worth nearly $3 million today) in King Joy Lo, which was considered the most upscale Chinese restaurant at the time complete with a live orchestra and dance floor. Early 20th century artifacts from the Museum’s collection such as King Joy Lo’s menu and lacquer food basket will be on display. Louis Armstrong’s miles tone “Cornet Chop Suey” and Margaret Johnson’s “Who’ll Chop Your Chop Suey (When I’m Gone)” will transport the visitor back to that era.