Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon Opens a Family Restaurant – Wall Street Journal

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MEAL PLAN The team behind Chifa. Clockwise from left: Humberto Leon with his mother, Wendy Leon; brother-in-law John Liu; and sister Rica Leon.


Jarod Wang

Chinese food like you’ve never had it before” is how Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon describes the cooking at Chifa, a new Los Angeles restaurant his family is opening in Eagle Rock in time for Chinese New Year. Leon is serving as creative marketing director, while the kitchen will be helmed by his mother, Wendy Leon, and brother-in-law John Liu. Wendy, who grew up in Hong Kong, has owned restaurants in Peru, where she spent three years in the mid-’70s, and L.A., where she has lived since 1977. She and Liu, whose family hails from Taiwan, will serve up organic, locally sourced meals that provide a fresh take on the Peruvian chifa, or Chinese restaurant—with dashes of Peruvian and Taiwanese flavor as well. “We’re relooking at how to make Chinese food without deep-frying,” Humberto explains. Instead, a wood-fired grill, a Peruvian staple, will be used to cook the meats. Signature dishes include soy sauce chicken, made with a secret recipe that’s been in the Leon family for 100 years. “It’s poached in a sauce that’s been passed down,” Liu says. “It’s been flavored by hundreds and hundreds of chickens.” Other notable items include pollo a la brasa, anticucho (beef heart) and a menu of “wellness soups,” which draw on Chinese medicinal traditions to help combat colds or provide relief after too much time in the California sun.

It’s not the first time the family has teamed up to create culinary magic. Wendy and Liu have collaborated with Humberto to provide food for Opening Ceremony and Kenzo events over the years. (Wendy also starred in the spring/summer 2019 Kenzo campaign, when Humberto and business partner Carol Lim were creative directing for the brand; for the restaurant, Humberto designed the staff uniforms.) This year, Wendy is looking forward to bringing her recipes to northeast L.A. “We really want to share this food with everybody,” she says.

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