George Q. Chen
George Quinn Chen (born September 13, 1957) is a Chinese-American entrepreneur, restauranteur, and founder and executive chef at China Live and Eight Tables. He is based in San-Francisco and has opened around 16 restaurants in San Francisco’s Bay Area, including the James Beard Award-nominated Betelnut, Shanghai 1930, China Live and Eight Tables, which was named by Time magazine as one of 100 of the World’s Greatest Places in 2018. Chen also owns businesses in Shanghai, China including the Roosevelt Prime Steakhouse and China Eastwind Fengyide Fine Wine & Spirits Company Shanghai. Chen also started E-Ha, a Web 2.0 company focused on the hospitality business.
Early life and education
Chen was born in Taiwan, China but moved to the US with family when he was 10 years old. Chen’s grandfather was a general under the Kuomintang—the National People's Party and his father was a diplomat.
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. He is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with degrees in neurobiology and psychology.
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.
Chen is not a trained chef. Prior to his restaurant career, he worked on Wall Street as a senior executive for more than a decade. 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. He launched the multi-unit Long Life Noodle Company and introduced to America true Shanghai cuisine at Shanghai 1930, along with other fine establishments.
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.
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. 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.
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. Though Chen has opened more than a dozen restaurants, Eight Tables has been praised as his most ambitious one.
Chen is involved primarily with three local charities namely Chinatown Community Development Center, Chinatown Community Children’s Center and On Lok.
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.
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