Henry Chung, Hunan culinary legend passes away in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco is mourning the loss of a chef and businessman credited with bringing the cuisine of Hunan, China to the U.S.

The man behind the iconic Henry's Hunan chain passed away Sunday.

There are 6 Henry's Hunan locations in San Francisco -- the iconic chain is synonymous with Hunan cuisine, the style of Chinese cooking that is hot, spicy, and oh so tasty.

Chung was born in China. he and his wife Diana moved to the U.S. after WWII.

They opened their original Hunan restaurant on Kearny Street in 1974 -- inspired by President Richard Nixon's visit to China, hoping to usher in a new era of relations between the two countries through culinary diplomacy.

With its signature meat pie, smoked Hunan ham, and kung pao chicken -- "The New Yorker" published an article in 1976 calling it the world's best Chinese restaurant.

"It changed our lives. We went from a restaurant that was moderately successful to being so busy that we had lines that went around the corner," said Chung's son Howard. "We had street performers that would come and perform in front of the lines."

Diana passed away in 2003.

Henry died at home in the Richmond District Sunday.

The Chungs leave behind 8 children and a legacy of giving. They built a school gym in China and endowed scholarships at Sacred Heart, U.C. Berkeley, and San Francisco State.

Chung's memorial is still being planned. It will be a celebration of an extraordinary life with no doubt extraordinary food.

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