George Q. Chen

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George Quinn Chen (born September 13, 1957) is a Chinese-American entrepreneur, restauranteur, and founder and executive chef at China Live and Eight Tables.[1][2][3][4][5] He is based in San-Francisco[6] and has opened around 16 restaurants in San Francisco’s Bay Area, including the James Beard Award-nominated Betelnut,[7] Shanghai 1930,[8] China Live[9] and Eight Tables, which was named by Time magazine as one of 100 of the World’s Greatest Places in 2018.[10][11] Chen also owns businesses in Shanghai, China including the Roosevelt Prime Steakhouse and China Eastwind Fengyide Fine Wine & Spirits Company Shanghai.[12] Chen also started E-Ha, a Web 2.0 company focused on the hospitality business.[13]

Early life and education[edit]

Chen was born in Taiwan, China but moved to the US with family when he was 10 years old.[14][15] Chen’s grandfather was a general under the Kuomintang—the National People's Party and his father was a diplomat.[16]

Chen gained an interest in the restaurant industry at the age of 15. He started working in the restaurant industry during his high school years to support himself. He spent his college years waiting tables at The Mandarin, under Cecilia Chiang.[7] He is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with degrees in neurobiology and psychology.[17]

Even when Chen was a teenager, waiting on tables in the Los Angeles area, before leaving for college at UC Berkeley, the L.A. Times food critic Lois Dwan wrote a front-page story about the waiter and his knowledge of Chinese cuisine and its flavors in all their complexity.[18]


Chen is not a trained chef.[7] Prior to his restaurant career, he worked on Wall Street as a senior executive for more than a decade.[17] His security industry job required extensive traveling throughout Asia, where he discovered local street-food flavors which were not found in the US. Following his culinary passion, Chen opened Betelnut in 1995 in San Francisco, which was the first of his 16 restaurants.[19] He launched the multi-unit Long Life Noodle Company and introduced to America true Shanghai cuisine at Shanghai 1930, along with other fine establishments.[20]

Looking for greater opportunities in Shanghai, China, Chen sold Betelnut to his business partners. He later opened restaurants in the US and China, including the San Francisco venue, Shanghai 1930, which operated for 13 years until its closure in 2010.[14][21]

Chen went to China to start an internet company called E-ha after which, he created Roosevelt Prime Steakhouse. Prior to his hospitality career, Chen has worked at Merrill, Lehman Brothers, Drexel, and Bear Stearns. He also started his own consulting firm doing advisory work.[19] He opened Betelnut Peiju Wu, an Asian beer house and then launched the multi-unit Long Life Noodle Company, and diverted to Shanghai cuisine at Shanghai 1930.[20][22]

As of 2017, he has opened 16 restaurants in the United States and China out of which, 11 have been opened with Cindy, his wife.[23] Though Chen has opened more than a dozen restaurants, Eight Tables has been praised as his most ambitious one.[24][25]


Chen is involved primarily with three local charities namely Chinatown Community Development Center, Chinatown Community Children’s Center and On Lok.[26]


Chen was honored by CAAM at CAAMFeast, in 2016.[14] He was nominated for James Beard Award - Best Restaurant and Chef, in 1996.[27]

Personal life[edit]

Chen is married to Cynthia April Wong (Cindy Wong), who has become his longtime business partner. They got married on June 25, 1999, and their reception was held at their restaurant, Xanadu, in Berkeley.[28][29][30][18]


  1. ^ "Would you pay $225 for this haute cuisine tasting menu at the new China Live eatery?". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  2. ^ Cheshes, Jay (2 May 2018). "A Feasting Guide to San Francisco's Newly Glam Chinatown". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  3. ^ "The Building That Will Transform Chinatown in 2015 — The Bold Italic — San Francisco". The Bold Italic. 19 August 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Massive China Live Marketplace Opens In San Francisco's Chinatown". 1 March 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Interview with the "SANJAY'S SUPER TEAM" Director and Producer". Mad Mimi. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Chinese food is the new haute cuisine of choice for America's rich". South China Morning Post. 8 March 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b c "Exclusive: First Look Inside Eight Tables, San Francisco's Ambitious New Chinese Tasting Menu". Food & Wine. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  8. ^ "China Live's owner hopes to avoid repeat of SFO fiasco -". 12 March 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  9. ^ "In San Francisco's Chinatown, a food hall wants to showcase the best of China". NBC News. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  10. ^ Leong, Kathy Chin (16 October 2018). "With Change Bubbling, San Francisco's Chinatown Strives to Stay Authentic". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  11. ^ "Bloomberg - Are you a robot?". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  12. ^ "CAAMFeast Awards: Stories, Food & You 2016". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  13. ^ Lee, Ellen (17 August 2008). "E-Ha taps into China's mobile culture". SFGate. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  14. ^ a b c "Chinese Food Expert to Open "Eataly of Chinese Food" in SF Chinatown". 29 February 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  15. ^ "7 insider tips to superstar chef's hot new Chinese food hall in SF". 6 October 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  16. ^ Wei, Clarissa (26 September 2017). "How China's Private Chateau Cuisine Landed on the Hottest Table in San Francisco". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  17. ^ a b "At George Chen's China Live: There is No Them or Us". 22 June 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  18. ^ a b "Restaurant Review: Eight Tables and the Art of Culinary Diplomacy". 7x7 Bay Area. 3 April 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  19. ^ a b "Steak Diplomacy: George Chen of Roosevelt Prime". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  20. ^ a b Mariani, John. "Eight Tables By George Chen Brings Very Refined High-End Chinese Cuisine to San Francisco". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  21. ^ "A Chinese chef moves beyond egg foo young". Restaurant Hospitality. 6 November 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  22. ^ Wu, Olivia (24 May 2006). "Two tastes of the city". SFGate. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  23. ^ "China Live: A food emporium of epic proportions in San Francisco's Chinatown -". 22 February 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  24. ^ "Eight Tables: The World's 100 Greatest Places of 2018". Time. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  25. ^ "San Francisco Restaurant Named One Of Time's 'Greatest Places To Eat 2018'". 31 August 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  26. ^ "China Live: San Francisco's Must-Visit Chinatown Foodie Destination". Make It Better - Family, Food, Finances & Philanthropy. 15 March 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  27. ^ "Awards Search - James Beard Foundation". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  28. ^ bayareabites (26 September 2017). "Master Chef George Chen Opens Eight Tables, China Live's Crown Jewel". KQED. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  29. ^ Lauren Hallow. "7 food halls to watch for in 2017". Restaurant Business. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  30. ^ Steger, Pat (2 July 1999). "By George, the Food Was Good / Bush fund-raiser at the St. Francis". SFGate. Retrieved 14 March 2019.