Skip Navigation

Leo Chan: Once Upon a Time in Chinatown


Wed May 26, 2021
7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
60 mins

Toronto not only has some of the most diverse cultures and food in the world, its Chinese community itself is one of the most diverse outside of China, representing many dialects and regions of Mainland China, each with their own distinct approach to cuisine. In this special Asian Heritage Month presentation, celebrated Chef and Professor, Leo Chan, will tell the story of how Chinese food in Toronto became so complex and varied. Starting with Sing Tom's Cafe (founded: 1901), Toronto's first Chinese eatery at the intersection of Bay and Queen to the change in tastes and fashion in favour of smaller diners and Chop Suey houses with limited seating. Finally to the "First Golden Era" when the opening of Nanking in 1947 and Lichee Garden in 1948 changed the profile of Chinese restaurants and was the turning point in the history of Chinese dining. They were the first two of the 'Big Four' upscale restaurants. The other two were Sai Woo opened in 1953 and Kwong Chow in 1959. This period revolutionized Chinese cuisine in Canada.

Dedicated to the thousands of ordinary men and women working in the food industry in Toronto, Professor Chan walks us through the history of Chinese influence on key parts of Canada's largest city when regional cuisines of China became more readily accessible, available and mainstream.

About this event's guest:

Leo Chan

Photo of Leo Chan courtesy of Henry Lam

Photo of Chinatown courtesy of Jens Ronneberger


This event is part of TPL's Asian Heritage series.


Toronto Public Library is committed to accessibility. Please call or email us if you are Deaf or have a disability and would like to request accommodation to participate in this program. Please let us know as far in advance as possible and we will do our best to meet your request. At least three weeks' notice is preferred. Phone 416-393-7099 or email

Related link:

Click to register now or tune in on May 26