In the beginning, the film is a fascinating oral history that recounts Chiang's privileged background in pre-Cultural Revolution China, her escape during Occupation, and her trip to San Francisco where she opened her renowned restaurant "The Mandarin" in 1961. The second half of the documentary shifts focus to follow in detail a lavish celebratory feast. The film features interviews with Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, and Cecilia Chiang herself.
Each month we invite guest speakers, filmmakers, and lecturers to lead the conversation. This month's guest is Dr. Cecilia Chien, a child of immigrant parents whose stories of war-torn China deeply affected her. Her work as a professor of East Asian history at West Chester University of Pennsylvania is inseparable from her identity as an Asian American. She has taught courses on pre-modern and modern China, East Asia in film, and the Asian American experience. She hopes to provide insights from her work and her experience, though she admits that she “would never be able to create a banquet, but knows how to enjoy one!”