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Madame Sylvia Wu, whose iconic restaurant Madame Wu’s Garden served Hollywood A-listers for decades, has died. She was 106.
When Wu, her husband and their three kids moved from New York to Los Angeles, she was shocked to find inauthentic Cantonese dishes in the city, and she wanted to change that. So, she opened up her first restaurant in Santa Monica in 1959, once her children went off to boarding school, and she had some free time on her hands.
Madame Wu’s Garden began in a small location and then upgraded to a much bigger site once it picked up steam. According to the Times, Wu drummed up business for her new restaurant by writing a letter to members of her church and asking one of her friends, who was a studio executive, to spread the word. It paid off.
Wu’s restaurant quickly became well-known for its celebrity clientele, which included stars like Cary Grant, Mae West, Frank Sinatra, Mia Farrow, Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Carson, Carol Burnett, Walter Matthau, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg, among others.
She closed the restaurant in 1998 as hipper and more casual Chinese spots opened and tastes in the city shifted. At the time, she also spoke of wanting to spend more time with her grandchildren, but it didn’t take long for her to come out of retirement.
The restaurateur opened a new spot, Madame Wu’s Asian Bistro & Sushi, in the then-new Grove shortly after, but it didn’t last nearly as long as the first, though people still had affection for her.
Wu is survived by her two sons George and Patrick and numerous grandchildren. Her husband died in 2011.
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