Once Upon a Time in Chinatown

26 May 2021

Event poster

With Professor Chef Leo Chan
Opening remarks: Mr. Justin Poy, Honourary Patron, Asian Heritage Month-CFACI
Mr. Gregory McCormick, Toronto Public Library

Presented with the Toronto Public Library

Toronto not only has some of the most diverse cultures and food in the world, its Chinese community itself is one of the most diverse outside of China, representing many dialects and regions of Mainland China, each with their own distinct approach to cuisine. In this special Asian Heritage Month presentation, celebrated Chef and Professor, Leo Chan, will tell the story of how Chinese food in Toronto became so complex and varied. Starting with Sing Tom’s Cafe (founded: 1901), Toronto’s first Chinese eatery at the intersection of Bay and Queen, to the change in tastes and fashion in favour of smaller diners and chop suey houses with limited seating. Finally to the First Golden Era when the opening of Nanking in 1947 and Lichee Garden in 1948 changed the profile of Chinese restaurants and was the turning point in the history of Chinese dining. They were the first two of the ‘Big Four’ upscale restaurants. The other two were Sai Woo opened in 1953 and Kwong Chow in 1959. This period revolutionized Chinese cuisine in Canada.

Dedicated to the thousands of ordinary men and women working in the food industry in Toronto, Professor Chan walks us through the history of Chinese influence on key parts of Canada’s largest city when regional cuisines of China became more readily accessible, available and mainstream.

About this event’s guest: Leo Chan

Co-Organizers: Toronto Public Library; Asian Heritage Month—Canadian Foundation for Asian Culture (Central Ontario) Inc.; Toronto Public Library; York Centre for Asian Research, York University; Asian Institute at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto; York University; Richard Charles Lee Canada Hong Kong Library, University of Toronto; Chinese Canadian Photography Society of Toronto; WE Artists’ Group; Social Services Network; Cambridge Food and Wine Society; Fête Chinoise

Asian Heritage Month Festival is partially funded by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Asian Canadian Artists in Digital Age is funded by Canada Council for the Arts Digital Strategy Fund

Return to 2021 events