Schlesinger Library / Collections

Grace Zia Chu

Grace Zia Chu (1899–1999) was a Chinese American culinary instructor, a cookbook author, and an official of the World Young Women’s Christian Association.

Grace Zia Chu stir frying broccoli
Korsh, Ken. Grace Zia Chu stir frying broccoli, ca. 1975. Papers of Grace Zia Chu.

Born in 1899 in Shanghai, China, Chu studied at Wellesley College in the 1920s. She married a Chinese military officer, with whom she had two sons, and served on the Women’s Advisory Committee of the Chinese Nationalist government from 1937 to 1941. She and her husband came back to the United States in 1941, when he was appointed military attaché to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC. In 1942, she was appointed international vice-president of the World Young Women’s Christian Association and traveled widely for five years.

Having taught herself Chinese cooking while at Wellesley, she began teaching classes in Chinese cooking in Washington; in 1954, she moved to New York and taught at the China Institute, the Mandarin House School of Cooking, the Culinary Institute of America, the School of Good Cooking, and in her home. She published two cookbooks: The Pleasures of Chinese Cooking (1962), which became a best seller, and Madame Chu’s Chinese Cooking School (1975). In recognition of her contributions, she was invested as a grande dame of Les Dames d’Escoffier New York Chapter in 1984. She died in Columbus, Ohio, in 1999. 

The collection includes awards; biographical documents and correspondence; recipes and menus from classes; materials from demonstrations and lectures; a short film based on her cookbook The Pleasures of Chinese Cooking; and clippings and typewritten speeches from her earlier life as a diplomatic military attaché’s wife and her work as vice president of the World YWCA. 


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