Susanna Foo, Master Chef

From Mongolia to Main Line
The Librarian Who Is Also a Master Chef

It’s the minced pork fat that provides the traditional taste.” — Susanna Foo


In the Shadow of the Great Wall: Susanna Food was born 1944 in Inner Mongolia and spent her early years in Shanxi Province of Northern China, near the great Wall.  Her father was a general in the Nationalist Chinese army

Move to Taiwan: After the victory of the Chinese Communist forces in , the family escaped to Taiwan where Foo spent her adolescence and college years.

Shanxi and the Great Wall

From Library Science to Chef: Foo moved to the United States in the 1960s to pursue graduate studies in library science in Pennsylvania.After marrying her Chinese -born husband E-Hsin, she joined his family’s restaurant business in Philadelphia. 
First Launch: Soon after she launched a restaurant in the family’s business, and after that she and her husband started their own restaurant named after Suisanna Foo.
A Librarian in the Kitchen? Foo may be the only Master Chef who was trained in library science, but this may not be as unusual as it first seems: Modern librarians are experts in information management, so this is a core competency that may be applied in many fields.
Culinary Influences: Foo’s early culinary influences were derived from her parents, kn in who were knowledgeable about the cuisines of several Chinese regions.  She learnedr learned Hunan  cuisine and Northern Chinese cuisine studying with family members who had those skills. 
Culinary Institute: Later Foo would master French and Continental cuisine at the Culinary Institute of America.
Unique Role and Culinary Style:  For more than 30 years, Foo and her husband have operated upscale Chinese restaurants, mostly in the greater Philadelphia area.  Her culinary style has revolutionized the concepts of people in North America about Asian food.
During this time Foo has become an acclaimed figure in the world of fine Chiense and Asian food and Fusion cooking.  She was one of only two women and probably the only Chinese woman to run a first-class Asian kitchen in North America.
Foo pioneered  in the adaptation of French techniques and  international ingredients to the most sophisticated Chinese dishes, with remarkable results.
Sophisticated Cuisine: Diners have come to expect sophisticated Chinese food, often served with a touch of French fusion influence.  Her dishes use the freshest ingredients from around the world – all served impeccably in elegant surroundings.
Innovation: Foo innovated by doing things like flavoring Chinese dishes with homemade stocks and reduced sauces.  She used nontraditional ingredients —
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • Portobello mushrooms
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • vodka, and more.

Tortillas and Scallions: Foo makes a version of Scallion Pancakes, basically a take on street food, but using Tortillas.  But she insists on using minced Pork Fat, which she says impart the traditional taste to this dish.

Cookbooks: Foo has authored two acclaimed cookbooks. She has been honored with prestigious awards from Food and Wine and received James Beard awards for excellence in cuisine.

Recipes: There ae so many – some signature dishes include —

  • Beef and Scallop Stir-Fry
  • Chicken Breast Sauteed with Mushrooms
  • Honeyed Walnuts
  • Jade Green Fried Rice with Crab Meat
  • Orange Beef with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
  • Poached Pears with Ginger
  • Pork Dumplings with Soy-Ginger Sauce.

Foo’s innovative and pioneering approach and communication skills have earned her a place in the ranks of the Master Chefs and she has introduced people in North America to the highest concepts of Chinese cuisine. After operating and closing several restaurants, Foo opened a new one, Suga, with a focus on Chinese Fusion elements, at the age of 72. working in partnereship with her son.

For Further Information:

Image of seated Buddha giving first sermon, Mongolia, 18thy cent.

Seated Buddha Giving First Sermon,
Mongolia, 18th cent.

Web Site: Foo’s web site is at
Bio site:
Books:Susanna Foo Chinese Cuisine: The Fabulous Flavors and Innovative Recipes of North Amnerica’s Finest Chinese Cook (Houghton Mifflin, 1995)
Susanna Foo Fresh Inspiration — New Approaches to Chinese Cuisine (Houghton Mifflin, 2005)
Gail Forman, “What Goes Around Comes Around,” Washington Post, January 29, 1997, p.E8.

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