The Chang re-effect: New place, new movie, and taking NYC by storm

The Year of the Dragon is turning out to be a special one for chef Peter Chang and his partners Gen Lee and his wife, Mary, who opened Peter Chang's China Grill in the Barracks Road Shopping Center last year. For our March 2010 cover story on the elusive chef, we remember stumbling across Lee at the Li'l Dino Subs shop he owns in Albemarle Square. At that time, Lee served as an unofficial translator for Chang, who was cooking at Taste of China next door, the setting for a profile in the New Yorker that set the local food scene abuzz.

Lee, an experienced executive chef himself, would partner with Chang to create a permanent home for Chang in Charlottesville, something many doubted would really happen.

 Well, it did happen, and just last month Lee found himself a long way from his Li'l Dino Subs shop: at the famed James Beard House in Manhattan, where Chang and his wife Hong Ying Zhang (an exceptional chef in her own right) found themselves cooking for the elite of the New York food scene, including a well-known actor/director and producers for Fox Searchlight Pictures who plan to make a film based on Chang's cooking-life called Where's Peter Chang? The event was sold out two weeks in advance.

Just a few days earlier, Lee had hosted a Charlottesville version of the event (also captured by Allen), which attracted some local celebs like author Jonathan "Jerry West" Coleman and C-ville Weekly editor Giles Morris.

"It was crazy," Lee laughs, describing the New York event. "And Peter cooked the real Chinese food. They are so used to French cooking there, so we stirred them upside down. But they loved it."

Lee says he also got to meet actor/director Stanley Tucci, known for starring in and directing food tales like Julie & Julia (he plays Julia Child's husband) and Big Night, as well as numerous TV appearances.

What's more, the Hook's sometime videographer, Anwar Allen, captured the event.

"Tucci and the producers were on the top floor," says Allen, "where they seat all the high-profile guests, I suppose."

One interesting thing about the event, says Allen, was that everyone was allowed to wander through the kitchen as Chang and his crew cooked.

Allen says that Jefferson Vineyard's Andy Reagan, who was there to pair Chang's food with the local vineyard's wines, was allowed up top first to introduce his wines, followed by Chang and his crew.

"Everything was great," says Reagan. "The food was outstanding, and the wines were all very well received. "

As if that weren't enough to start the Year of the Dragon, Lee and Chang opened another restaurant in Short Pump, Peter Chang China Cafe, on February 8, ensuring that the famous chef will be based in our area for the foreseeable future. We hope.


The Hook's occasional videographer, Anwar Allen of Humbledown Production, captured Chang and company at a star-studded affair at the James Beard House in NYC on January 30.


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The Sarah Palin of cooking. I've tasted his food numerous times, and although it's perfectly decent cooking, the media infatuation is bizarre to say the least.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Chinese New Year celebration and wrote about it. He was incredibly gracious and the food extraordinary. I wish him well...