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He built his Chinese food empire on potstickers, proverbs and passion. Now, as Chef Chu's turns 50, Larry Chu looks to the future.

Original post made on Jan 30, 2020

How has Chef Chu's survived 50 years in the restaurant business? The answer, perhaps, is that the 76-year-old chef-owner lives and breathes his eponymous restaurant.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, January 30, 2020, 1:14 PM

Comments (28)

Posted by Shari Emling
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 30, 2020 at 5:03 pm

If you haven't been to Chef Chu's restaurant, you've missed a true star of the Bay Area. The menu choices are tremendously varied, the quality of the food is amazing, and the service is great. Where else does your lunch include a fresh pot of tea and their marvelous soup along with your entree - always finished with a fortune cookie - for such a truly reasonable price? Both Larrys are so friendly and cheerful and always make you feel your attendance has made their day complete!
Advice: make a reservation... this place is VERY popular!

Posted by Ron
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 30, 2020 at 5:18 pm

I am 54 and grew up here since I was 5 (born in SF). So I guess I could say I grew up with Chef Chu's and have memories here from countless visits (it was one of my parents favorite places. I probably identify with it more than just about anything else in the area as classic Los Altos.

I wish them the best for another 50 years!

Posted by Marilyn Wong
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 30, 2020 at 8:25 pm

Worley Wong was the architect for the Empress of China. Look it up! It is no longer there but it was an amazing place!

Posted by Herta
a resident of Los Altos
on Jan 30, 2020 at 8:50 pm

We are big fans. The food is delicious. Try the miso-glaced sea bass and Sichuan style clay pot. We’ve ‘discovered’ the place a year ago. Multiple times we’ve sat next to local couples who shared a bit of history and anecdotes about the place. Priceless! Most importantly though, you are seen and greatly appreciated as a guest, something that’s hard to find in Silicon Valley these days. Chef Chu and Larry Chu jr. made us feel as if we were regulars from day one. I am not surprised that this place has been around for so long. It is a true gem!

Posted by Barry Wong
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 31, 2020 at 9:07 am

> Not authentic. It’s basically Chinese food for white people.

^^^ Very true but the same can be said of Mexican food & Japanese food as well.

Most white diners are very limited in their perception of foreign cuisine let alone what they will actually eat.

If ethnic restaurants in America served authentic food they would go out of can only get 'authentic' at a family gathering or meal.

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2020 at 10:17 am

You are under-playing the gallery of photos in the lobby of Chef Chu’s: when George Schultz was a Hoover fellow he liked Chef Chu’s. This led to LC getting invited to the Reagan White House and Chu meeting or feeding world leaders like Thatcher, Gorbachev and Schultz. If an Army marches on its stomach, world peace and the free world get takeout from Lawrence and now Larry Chu Of Los Altos.

Posted by I knew the snobs would come out
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 31, 2020 at 11:21 am

Poo poo...not authentic. HA! Is it,uhhh....Tasty?!?!
Those white people...always eating delicious food that's not authentic.
50 years people, 'nuf said.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2020 at 11:29 am

Ok, ok, but this applies to other cultures/countries, too, for example, the ridiculous idea that England is portrayed by that hideous tv show Downton Abbey (make me laugh) - or that English sit around at High Tea with “English Muffins!” Haha.
Yes, they drink a lot of tea - that part is true.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Chef Chu’s for a successful, admired restaurant. Happy you are a part of this crossroads community of PA, LA and MV!

Posted by Filippo
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 31, 2020 at 12:23 pm

A go to place for us. My children are now adults and living overseas, but whenever they are in town a take-out from Chef Chu is mandatory (or more than one)

Posted by Nana Di
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jan 31, 2020 at 1:25 pm

I used to live in Monroe Park, and later in Midtown, and now I live in Santa Barbara. I miss Chef Chu's down here, and dine there whenever I visit family in Palo Alto. I have always loved the restaurant, the site of many Birthday celebrations in my Family, and I am so happy to see it getting the recognition it deserves. Bravo to Lawrence Chu; he is an inspiration. Best of luck to Lawrence Jr. for carrying on the tradition of quality and ambience.

Posted by Barry Wong
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 31, 2020 at 4:16 pm

> ...the ridiculous idea that England is portrayed by that hideous tv show Downton Abbey

British cuisine is an oxymoron as there is no such thing (unless you consider bangers, kidney pie or fish & chips to be their trademark contribution to fine dining).

The English specialize in 'pub grub'.

The British epicureans that I have encountered tend to embrace French cooking and French wines since they have no high-end native cooking of their own outside of some tasty provincial cuisine which is hard to find unless you are acquainted with someone who lives out in the country.

Posted by Julia
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2020 at 9:09 pm

Glad to see this gem of a restaurant celebrated! Both the food and the people are truly top-notch. In an area that has seen so much change and the recent folding of local institutions, Chef Chu's stands out. Here's hoping we get another 50 years!

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2020 at 9:35 pm

Barry, British cuisine has really improved. If you haven’t been to London recently, I highly recommend a visit.
(I’m married into an English family, btw.)

Posted by Richard
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 1, 2020 at 12:54 am

We have friends (Chinese and non-) that are fan of Chef Chu. It's definitely pretty good American-Chinese food. Heck, I even made Peking Duck using Mr. Chu's recipe.

Nevertheless, and this has nothing to do with snobbery, there are plenty of ethnic food that are closer to homes, including Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican. Just because you don't know where to find them, it doesn't mean they do not exist.

Posted by Just because
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 1, 2020 at 6:48 am

No, it's really about snobbery. It's thinly veiled, but its there nonetheless.
Some people hate it when other's enjoy things so they have to downplay or minimize it..."I guess it's OK..." LOL!
There are no secrets.

Posted by Barry Wong
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2020 at 3:34 pm

> there are plenty of ethnic food that are closer to homes, including Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican. Just because you don't know where to find them, it doesn't mean they do not exist.

^^^ Some people don't want to go there even if it is 'authentic' (i.e the barrio or Chinatown). Why risk a car theft or break-in?

As for Japanese restaurants, most are run by Koreans as sushi-making is not really an art form as once believed + teriyaki can be easily prepared by any non-Asian armed with a bottle of Kikkoman sauce & a Weber grill. way to tell a lousy Chinese restaurant is if you see a bunch of redneck types in cowboy hats dining there & using forks.

Another observation among some white folks...many are seen gorging themselves on sushi & sashimi while the Japanese often eat these menu items as appetizers.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2020 at 7:57 pm

> Some people hate it when other's enjoy things

Really, I've never met anyone that hates when other enjoy themselves, unless it is at someone else's expense. Funny how dependent clauses like this are used to support the most ridiculous claims.

Chef Chu's is a good place. I have not gone there a lot, but have sampled it often over the decades. While I have noticed a lot of restaurants that claim to be authentic, and some of them even have lots of Asian people dining there, they are not necessarily the best places.

It could be my American taste buds, but what I mostly look for is quality ingredients cooked together in an appetizing way and presented professionally. Chef Chu's has held up their quality for a long time, but what has happened to so many Chinese restaurants?

It used to be that almost every Chinese place was fun to go to and at least pretty good, but not there are a lot that skimp on ingredients or service to the point that it is not worth it, yet I still see them full of patrons. I think the authenticity claim is a red-herring and not that important.

I think it must be hell to be a restauranteur these days with the rents and costs of everything, and cost-mindedness of the public as well. i wish them well, but I am only interested in going to places that have delicious wholesome good quality ingredients cooked well, and am willing to pay more for that. I think too many places aim low. Thank goodness Chef Chu's is not one of them.

Posted by @Barry Wong
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 3, 2020 at 1:23 pm

OK Barry, now talk about the driving to the restaurant part or maybe some anatomy discussionsy.
Aren't blanket stereotypes fun?!

Posted by Barry Wong
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 4, 2020 at 4:23 pm

>>> Barry, British cuisine has really improved. If you haven’t been to London recently, I highly recommend a visit.

^^^I suspect this is primarily due to the massive wave of immigration that has permeated the London area & the different cultural influences of the food now being offered.

The British certainly could not have improved or created their own brand of culinary expertise within the last 25-30 was the newcomers who influenced it (if at all).

The Brits have had over 1500 years to create a national cuisine of their own & outside of beef-heavy dishes or fat-laden food, they did not progress very far.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 4, 2020 at 5:37 pm

Barry, I simply don’t understood your condescension towards London.
“London ranks as top city globally for vegan-friendly restaurants, “Dec. 2, 2019, CNBC.COM - nothing about other countries or cultures swooping in to advise the poor Brits.
“How London became one of the best food cities in the world,” April 26, 2016, Conde Nast Traveler - doesn’t particularly attribute this to France or etc.

Posted by Barry Wong
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 5, 2020 at 10:38 am

> Barry, I simply don’t understood your condescension towards London.

^^^ Not being condescending...just stating a fact.

Now don't even get me started on another UK health & dentists.

For a modern country, the United Kingdom's dental services & overall oral health have been likened to that of a 3rd world country.

It's no wonder vegan dining is now a cash cow.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2020 at 7:16 pm

Again, Barry, you’re outdated. Dentists there are not part of National Health, they make good $ in modern times.
I know a newly qualified one there, he’s gone though high quality and extensive education. I would trust him.
Please stop your tired, outdated stereotypes.

Posted by Chef Chu’s Fan
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 5, 2020 at 11:50 pm

I live in Palo Alto and am Chinese. Chef Chu is an excellent restaurant in so many respects. My family and I have been dining there and getting take out for over 20 years. Great food and service, and the Chu family are committed community members. Thank you for being a part of the community and we look forward to dining there for years to come. Happy 50th!

Posted by Diane W.
a resident of another community
on Feb 15, 2020 at 10:47 pm

I started going to Chef Chu's right after he opened. At that time, they only had one unit in the building. It was so small they would close after lunch to prepare for dinner. Sometimes, I would knock on the door and Larry would sell me some of his frozen pork buns to steam at home.

Larry was eventually able to expand into the other units and in time he bought the entire building. At one point, he began writing his first cookbook and taught cooking classes as a way of testing out his recipes. For $10, he would teach a class, give out copies of the recipes and serve us the food he cooked. He was also an occasional guest on the Yan Can Cook PBS show. For a number of years he even led food tours around China.

In 1980, he catered my wedding (that's how much I love Chinese food). He did a wonderful job and I was thrilled! I knew one of his sons became the General Manager so, I assumed Larry had retired. Recently though, I stopped by to get some of the frozen pork buns and the cashier told me he didn't retired, he was actually working in the kitchen. She went and got him for me and I mentioned that he catered my wedding, 39 years ago. He asked my name. I told him it was Diane. He looked at me and told me my last name. What a memory! He is a wonderful man who is a wonderful chef. I don't care if his food is authentic or Americanized Chinese,(though I think it is, more than not). It's delicious and that's all I care about.

Posted by Einar Tapio
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2020 at 9:26 pm

I now live north of Seattle, but I dare say that Chef Chu's is the best of any Chinese restaurants I have ever visited in all four corners of the US in the 50+ years I have lived here.
My first visit at Chef Chu's at the corner of El Camino Real and San Antonio in Los Altos may have been as early as 1975, when Lawrence Chu still held his cooking classes. They were mostly tailored to the brave ladies of Barron Park. Kung Pao Chicken would set you back by $3.95 then. A couple of years later we both had problems with gum decease, and I believe with we both went to the same dentist, Dr Frank Yoshida in Mountain View.
Larry Chu was very entertaining as a teacher. He could mimic any ethnic group in speach, particularly those peeling shrimp in his kitchen (Larry knows who they were). He was also incredibly fast as a chef, which may have made Chef Chu's survive in those early days.
Once again, I did visit Chef Chu's in May 2019 and asked for the old boy, but was I told that Mr. Chu was in Viet Nam, and: "Who are you?" Larry would have recognized me, am I sure. That is the kind of person he is.
Hopefully, I will get a chance to enjoy a meal at his place again, in not too distant a future.

Posted by Gwen Taylor
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 6, 2020 at 3:49 pm

I love Chinese food! This perhaps their greatest contribution to western culture.

Everything else they've done pales in comparison.

Posted by Robin
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2020 at 3:41 pm

My family has eaten at Chef Chu's for years! We have enjoyed the tasty dishes, the affordability, the friendliness of the Chus, the excellent service, that we could stay as long as we wanted - we have considered it our number one go-to place to eat and visit! I also recall that Glyde Memorial in San Francisco once ordered 2400 Chef Chu dinners for its Thanksgiving meal that year for the homeless - what a treat they got! Wishing you many more wonderful years here!

Posted by Brad
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 25, 2020 at 8:29 pm

Gosh, will someone release a documentary already memorializing this unbelievable
story of trailblazing innovative pioneer Larry Chu aka Chef Chu, his talented entrepreneurial family, their incredible family business, the wonder of how the product they make every day touches so many lives and makes so many people happy and how every time someone walks in their doors they make you feel special!

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