Michael Chow On The Golden Anniversary + Cultural Legacy Of Mr Chow

Michael Chow
Michael Chow

Photo Credit: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Mr Chow

On Friday night, restaurateur, artist and collector Michael Chow hosted an evening of dinner and dancing to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of his iconic restaurant, Mr Chow. The celebration, held at Chow’s artist studio in downtown Los Angeles, was attended by the biggest names in art, fashion, music and Hollywood, including Heidi Klum, Al Pacino, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, Chris Rock, Nicolas Berggruen, Gus Van Sant, Ricky Martin and more. All were there to celebrate the restaurant, which opened on Valentine’s Day 1968 in Knightsbridge, London, as the first “designed” restaurant, which introduced a new concept of fine dining by serving authentic Beijing cuisine with elegant European-style service—and its enigmatic proprietor.

Chow was born in 1939 into a family of theater in Shanghai, China. His father Zhou Xinfang, the grandmaster of Beijing Opera, is regarded as a national treasure to this day. In his early years, Chow developed a passion for Beijing Opera, particularly the creativity and spontaneity which he inherited from his father, and he dreamed of following in his footsteps, but opted for a different path instead. Throughout his life, Chow has orchestrated  art, architecture, design and cuisine into a participatory theater, all of which can be shown in his newly-released book, Mr Chow: 50 Years. Here, the ultimate artistic and culinary influencer discusses his legacy, his brand and his greatest luxuries.

A bust of Michael Chow on display at his anniversary party
A bust of Michael Chow on display at his anniversary party

Photo Credit: Getty Images for Mr Chow

What to you consider to be your greatest achievement in the 50 years of Mr. Chow’s existence?
In a small way, the greatness of Chinese culture is recognized. I’ve turned a leaf and given light to Chinese cultures’ greatness.

Do you have a favorite location? What is it and why?
Mr. Chow London because it’s my first born.

What dish do you personally eat several times a week?
I paint with eggs, I eat eggs, I just love eggs!

What was the greatest compliment paid to you about your food, and by whom?
In the book, Sir Terence Conran wrote that my vision has always been the magic ingredient in improving the quality of a space. That meant a lot to me. [The quote is]: “I have always felt that good design is more or less ninety-eight per cent common sense, but what makes a space interesting is the other two per cent, what I call the magic ingredient. It is the difference between somewhere that is perfectly acceptable and a place that is so special that everybody wants to be there. When the magic ingredient is present, the whole quality of life is improved—and in the case of Mr Chow that magic ingredient has always been Michael’s vision.” Sir Terence Conran

Do you ever create special items for Royals, celebrities, etc. that aren’t on the menu? What if so, and for whom?
Once, I bought Groucho Marx a hamburger from outside to eat in the restaurant.

What is the most important thing people should know about the Mr. Chow brand?
It’s where there’s hope for the arts. It’s where art lives.

Why do you think the restaurant has sustained such longevity?
I have always had a powerful single vision, which is to regain a culture that was lost, and to express the greatness of china and I never wavered from it.

What is the recipe to success?
Be humble and aggressive at the same time.

What do you consider to be the greatest luxury in life?
There’s no luxury without fantasy.

What do you think will be your/the restaurant’s legacy?
I think my legacy will be that I am the man who made put art first and the restaurants will be that it is a place where art comes first.

Heidi Klum and Michael Chow share a moment during the Mr Chow 50 Years party on February 16
Heidi Klum and Michael Chow share a moment during the Mr Chow 50 Years party on February 16

Photo Credit: Getty Images for Mr Chow Enterprises