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Anjelica Houston and Jerry Hall were two of the first to arrive on Friday night to Mr. Chow’s 50th anniversary party.
“We’ve known Michael for hundreds of years,” Huston told The Hollywood Reporter. “Yes, yes,” said Hall. “We’re old friends.”
Michael is Michael Chow, the legendary Chinese restaurateur behind the Mr. Chow empire, which began a half a century ago with an eatery in London.
His Beverly Hills outpost opened in 1974, followed by one in New York in 1979. He now has seven restaurants worldwide.
“We were talking about his Peking duck and the little scallion pancakes the whole ride over here,” Huston said. “So delicious,” Hall cooed.
The party was held at Chow’s 57,000 square-foot artist studio and gallery space just south of Los Angeles in Vernon.
“This building was built in the 1930s,” Chow, 79, said while waiting for guests to arrive with his girlfriend Vanessa Rano (he and Eva Chow split last August after 25 years of marriage). “That’s why we have windows with 360-degree views because electricity was extraordinarily expensive then. Downstairs, I paint and here upstairs, I show and next door I have a commercial kitchen. We have a library. Tonight, we will have outdoor space tented so it will be 67,000 square feet.”
Chow recalled opening the doors to his first eponymous restaurant.
“I had a tremendous amount of passion to reconnect to my country, my father [the late actor Zhou Yinghua] and my culture,” he said. “It’s a journey about introducing the east to the west.”
Chow now spends most of his time painting.
“I’m fortunate enough to be able to paint, which is the noblest profession on this planet, to be an artist,” he said. “This is the most vital and necessary person to be, an artist. It’s such a humbling experience. It’s very joyful.”
Not that he didn’t use his artistic side while creating his restaurants.
“I have always treated it as theater,” Chow explained. “Every night in the restaurant, we look for the moment of magic. The theater motto is to never bore the audience, so I try to never bore my audience and try to entertain them and try to connect to them.”
And last night’s party was certainly magical. The cocktail hour included an all-female string quartet playing while waiters in tuxedos offered glasses of Louis Roederer champagne (Fiji water was available at the bar) and hors d’oeuvres, including chicken satay. Soon after the doors opened at 7:30, the first floor quickly filled with a star-studded roster of guests, including Ricky Martin and his artist husband Jwan Yosef, Chris Rock, Olivia Wilde, Mark Ronson, Mickey Rourke, Sophia Bush, Adrien Brody, Camilla Belle, Kathy Hilton, Nancy Davis, CAA’s Joel Rubin, stylists George Kotsiopoulos and Jeanne Yang and Catfish host Nev Schulman.
Quincy Jones, who wasn’t doing press in the wake of his recent jaw-dropping interviews with Vulture and GQ, sat on a chair off to the side, where two Vernon police officers asked for pictures with the music legend.
Steve Wonder was also there, but he didn’t arrive until about 11:30 p.m.
“What would we eat if there wasn’t Mr. Chow?,” wondered Heidi Klum, who attended the party with her Germany’s Next Topmodel judges Thomas Hayo and Michael Michalsky. “It’s one of my kids most favorite restaurants. They love the chicken skewers, the squab, the green shrimp and the drunken fish. Everything is yummy, and it doesn’t matter what city you go to — it is always yummy.”
The dinner menu included Shanghai cucumber, salt and pepper potatoes, shrimp fried rice, steamed sea bass, glazed prawns and tofu salad.
Entertainment included dragon and lion dance performances in honor of the Chinese New Year and a screening of a short comedy film starring Ken Jeong as a Michael Chow impersonator.
Guests were offered plastic replicas of Chow’s signature black round glasses, while Chow’s daughter China handed out Beboe marijuana vaporizers. The night was like Old Home Week for Jerry O’Connell, as the actor’s father went to art school with Chow.
“Mr. Chow is a staple,” he said. “Restaurants come and go, except for Mr. Chow.” Added O’Connell’s wife Rebecca Romijn, “And we’re friends with China. She invited us. This venue is breathtaking. This is an experience.” Cracked O’Connell, “If we renew our vows, I want to talk to Mr. Chow about renting this space.”
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