To restaurateur Michael Chow, dinner is show business. “You write the script, have the right set and costumes. Then you come out and sing! Every detail is important.”
Especially the right casting. Chow, 67, keeps a list of all the famous folk who have enjoyed his signature dishes—like lettuce-wrapped squab—since he opened the first Mr. Chow eatery in London in 1968. (Sequels followed in Beverly Hills and New York City, which, as of May, boasts a second Mr. Chow in Tribeca.) Consider just the Lees: Ang, Brandon, Christopher, Jason Scott, Spike and Tommy. Or the Wests, from Mae to Kanye.
Chow, whose father was a Beijing opera star, calls his early years, “very glamorous, people pointing out that I was so-and-so’s son.” After moving to England for school as a teen, he came of age in the London of the Beatles and the Stones. “Restaurants were part of that energy,” says Chow. “The party moved from there.” And keeps on moving: Recently at the new Tribeca spot, Courtney Love crossed the room to talk to Meryl Streep, while back in Beverly Hills, Sylvester Stallone just missed Jack Nicholson. “Every night,” Chow says, “we call and ask, ‘Who’s in?’ Just like the director, I’m looking every evening for magic to happen.”
BEVERLY HILLS, 1981
“HE’S MORE A FRIEND THAN A CUSTOMER. I GAVE A PARTY FOR HIM WHEN CUCKOO’S NEST OPENED IN LONDON”