Articles / We Wouldn’t Have Marcella Hazan Without Grace Zia Chu

We Wouldn’t Have Marcella Hazan Without Grace Zia Chu

Published September 22, 2021

Plus, a simple soup recipe from the woman who helped transform America’s understanding of Chinese cooking in the 1960s

The James Beard Award-winning writer Mayukh Sen’s debut book, Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America, is out from W.W. Norton & Company in November and is available for preorder now. In this column, Sen looks at the stories and recipes of some of the extraordinary women he didn’t get to devote chapters to in the book, but whose stories stayed with him.

In 1969, the cooking teacher and food writer Grace Zia Chu, a 70-year-old woman whom a journalist would once call a “tiny tornado in the kitchen,” made a startling announcement to her students: She’d be leaving New York to return to her native China. She needed a break from teaching Chinese cooking. The news would turn out to be an unexpected blessing for one of the women in that crowd, an Italian immigrant named Marcella Hazan. Chu’s departure from New York inspired Hazan to take up the teaching mantle herself when some of her fellow students persuaded Hazan to show them the ins and outs of Italian cooking.