Hollywood’s beloved restaurateur Sylvia Wu has died at the age of 106.
Wu, who spent four decades delighting celebrity diners at her Southern California restaurant Madame Wu’s Garden, died on Sept. 19.
Situated on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, California, Wu’s restaurant became an instant hit when it opened in 1959.
Madame Wu’s Garden attracted the rich and famous with its eye-catching decor and kept them coming with authentic Chinese cuisine.
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The stars had their favorites: Mae West preferred the cold melon soup, while Gregory Peck and Paul Newman liked the shrimp toast and crab puffs best. For Princess Grace of Monaco, it was the restaurant’s Peking roast duck.
Wu herself left a lasting impression to those who frequented the venue.
“Everybody in this town knows Madame Wu,” the late TV presenter Merv Griffin was quoted as saying. “One of the dearest, sweetest, most elegant women I’ve ever known.”
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Born Sylvia Cheng to a wealthy family in Jiujiang city, China, on Oct. 24, 1915, Wu learned to cook by watching their maid prepare meals.
Her family eventually settled in Hong Kong, but she decided to move to New York City during World War II.
She later got married to chemist King Yan Wu, who she met while studying at Columbia University. They had three children and later moved to Los Angeles, where she got her start as a restaurant owner and her husband took an engineering job.
Wu had previously revealed that she decided to open her own restaurant after only finding faux-Cantonese dishes upon arriving in the U.S.
While the restaurant closed in 1998 and the subsequent Madame Wu’s Asian Bistro & Sushi did not last long, many remembered the owner fondly.
Wu, whose husband died in 2011, is survived by her sons George and Patrick as well as numerous grandchildren.
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