Cecilia Chiang (b. 1920) is a Chinese American restaurateur and chef that founded and managed the Mandarin Restaurant in San Francisco. With the opening of the restaurant in 1960, Chiang is credited with introducing Americans to authentic Mandarin cuisine.
After escaping the Chinese Communist Revolution of 1949 on the last flight out of Shanghai, Chiang, her husband, and her daughter eventually settled in San Francisco, where she agreed to help some friends open a restaurant. When the landlord refused to return her deposit after her friends backed out, Chiang decided to run the restaurant on her own. She listed over 200 dishes on her first menu to figure out which dishes appealed most to non-Chinese Americans and eschewed stereotypical Chinese restaurant decor in designing the spaces. While Chiang initially struggled in the industry as a Mandarin-speaking Chinese woman, she soon began attracting important clientele (such as The Flower Drum Song creator C.Y. Lee) and moved her booming restaurant to a 300-seat location in Ghirardelli Square. She ran the restaurant until her she sold it and retired in 1991; the restaurant continued to operate until 2006. Her son, Philip Chiang, eventually co-founded the popular restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s.
Chiang has written two cookbooks and a cookbook/memoir. In 2013, she was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the James Beard Foundation. Even at the age of 98, Chiang continues to champion charitable causes, most notably raising money for the Chinese American International School in San Francisco.