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History «  Ruby Foo and the Traveling Kitchen

History

The Real Ruby Foo: Boston Restaurateur and Chinese Culinary Legend

Ruby Foo was born in 1904 in San Francisco. In 1923, she moved to Boston and opened Ruby Foo’s Den on Hudson Street, a single-room restaurant that quickly became one of the city’s most popular eateries.1 The Den was heralded as the first Chinese restaurant that successfully catered to and attracted a non-Chinese clientele. Throughout World War II, the Den served as a meeting place for theater, sports, and political stars, including players for the Boston Red Sox,  actor Danny Kaye, jazz singer Sophie Tucker, and Boston’s Mayor Michael Curley. Mayor Curley was also her neighbor in Boston’s affluent Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Ruby Foo went on to open similar restaurants in New York City, Miami, Washington, D.C., and Providence. She was one of the first successful female restaurateurs and mentored dozens of aspiring chefs in Boston.2 Ruby Foo’s restaurants provided a comfortable safe-haven to marginalized groups struggling with anti-semitism and racial discrimination common during that time period. Her family also reports that she was a political activist, raising money for the American war effort during World War II even despite anti-Asian-American  sentiment that grew after Pearl Harbor. In 1938, Ruby Foo’s life changed forever when she saw a picture of a baby crying among the rubble of a Shanghai railroad station that had been bombed by the Japanese in a magazine. She arranged for the child to be brought to the United States, where she adopted him and raised Ronald as her own, along with her other two children Earl and Doris.

Ronald Foo is author Tiffany Foo’s father and inspired the character Gong Gong in Finding the Foo Identity. He grew up in Boston, and in 1955 enlisted in the United States Air Force and served his country until 1959, when he began working for Pan American Airlines at J.F.K. International in New York. He married Sylvia and had three children, Christine, Ronald Jr., and Tiffany. He retired in 1993 and currently lives in Florida.

Learn More About Ruby Foo:

BWHT.org – Ruby Foo’s Den
Wikipedia – Ruby Foo

  1. To, Wing-kai. Chinese in Boston, 1870-1965, p 50. Arcadia Pub, 2008.
  2. “China Town/South Cove.” Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, bwht.org/chinatown-south-cove/.