Holiday is one of the busiest times of a year for our restaurant Legend 72. People from the neighborhood, from other boroughs, from all over the country, from the whole world, come to visit us. Our chef and his staff work so hard on our gourmet food they almost forget holiday for themselves. The kitchen alchemy is floating in the air. Just like the past days of the year culminate into the wonderful holidays at year end, many ingredients combine to form something more delectable than the sum of their parts. Fancy ones are not required; simple, made-up are usually better.
Our chef doesn’t like food too carefully arranged. He is afraid to spend too much time arranging and not enough time cooking. He grew up with his grandma who cooks, never went to culinary institute. It just started in his blood. But first he had to be a craftsman, a technician. Like a jeweler, or a surgeon, he learnt to know his trade in his hand. Through endless repetition, it finally became part of himself. Even nowadays, he cooks every day. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And the technique burnishes. In this tasty cadence, another new year comes to knock at the door.
Year 2016 has been a wonderful year. Legend 72 gained a great reputation. There is a steady group of customers following us, and the group is getting bigger and bigger. In the new year, Legend 72 will continue to create new dishes and flavor combinations that brings our customers pleasure from far-away Sichuan. This is our job and we love. We wish you a Happy New Year!
Christmas in Sichuan is time to party. Night clubs, restaurants, bars and karaoke places are all booked and crowded. You can find the most extravagant parties of the year on Christmas Eve. Some of the parties charge well over one thousand US dollars for an entrance ticket. But there was one thing no one expected and had become a tradition for several years until being banned by the government: Christmas street party. Years ago, for some mysterious reason, a large group of young people started gathering on street with balloon toys in hand on Christmas Eve. They quickly drew more and more people, then it became a phenomenon that everyone had to go and join. Every Christmas Eve for several years in a row, hundreds of thousands of people poured out on the street to celebrate, and nobody can explain why. From the picture you can see that it is just like Time Square on New Year’s Eve.
In New York City it is the other way around. Legend 72, like all the other Sichuan restaurants here, is full of Jewish families. It is a well-known Jewish tradition of eating at Chinese restaurants on Christmas or Christmas Eve. Historian can trace this tradition back to the end of 19th century. It is intriguing to think, at this time of year, how people find different ways to (or not to) celebrate Christmas, and they are connected by the global culture link in tandem, even when they are thousands of miles apart, barely knowing anything about each other.
Chinese contemporary artists have enjoyed a phenomenal popularity in recent years. Top museums like Met and MoMA collect their works; galleries are rushing to create exhibitions for them; some of their best works were sold for hundreds of millions dollars. If you take a close look at these artists’ resume, the chance is high that the artist was from Sichuan. Actually, those artists were called Sichuan School by critics because they all more or less associated with Sichuan Fine Art Institute. After its opening, Legend 72 has quickly become Chinese artists’ hang-out place in New York. Hot pot is a major attraction, so does the authentic Sichuan cuisine. The other night we saw a well-known artist come with his wife and friends. He was having a solo exhibition in Guggenheim. The exhibition lasted for a whole month, and hot pot was the best cure for his craving of home-town spicy food. Another artist brought everyone from his studio for late dinner after a documentary movie about him debuted in Sotheby’s. Apparently people worship him so much that the 10-person table had 16 person squeezed around it, and some fans had to wait outside. One performance artist, who was on Hugo Boss Prize shortlist, loves Chinese hard liquor (baijiu). He could finish half bottle of it and still talked about art history and philosophy with impressive details.
Everyone working in Legend 72 admires those artists, and feel connected with them, not just because we all came from Sichuan, but also we share the camaraderie of the same creative occupation. “Cooking is an art, but you eat it too.” In art we trust.
As President-Elect of the United States, Donald Trump has roused unexpected sensation in Sichuan, China. PEOTUS, who was born and has been living in New York almost for his entire life, and never showed particular affection for spicy Sichuan food, quickly started flooding the websites and social media in the region well-known for its delicious cuisine with over 100 million people. The reason: one popular version of the translation of his name is Chuan-Pu (川普）, which also literally means “Sichuan Mandarin”, a term to describe the spoken Chinese mixed with local dialect and official Mandarin (Pu Tong Hua, 普通话）. Sichuan Mandarin has been a reliable source for funny jokes and witty humor as the dialect spreads all over the country along with Sichuan cuisine. No matter what their view toward politics in the United States, certainly Sichuan people feel a little amused by the coincidence. Many more new jokes based on it are the testament to this comic spirit. As anywhere else, there have been heated debates on the election in Legend 72, especially among Chinese students and intellectuals. Some were definitely carried out in Chuan-Pu. We hope in the end the delicious cuisine and good humor can bring people back together, whether in Sichuan or New York.