Mr. Schoenfeld grew to become obsessive about Chinese language meals early on.
“I will need to have been 11 or 12 once I first went to the Nice Shanghai on Broadway and 102nd Avenue,” he informed the web site Serious Eats in 2018. “I bear in mind having my first spring roll! Not an egg roll — this was thinner and extra delicate.”
In his teenagers he ate weekly at Shun Lee Dynasty, which had opened in 1965, and launched into a strenuous program of self-education. He studied with Grace Chu, whose cooking courses and cookbooks launched generations of New Yorkers to the subtleties of Chinese language delicacies, and did postgraduate work, so to talk, by organizing banquets with the highest Chinese language cooks in New York.
“When I discovered a very good chef I’d return to him usually, hoping that he would delve deep into his repertoire showcasing his ability and artwork,” Mr. Schoenfeld informed the web site egullet.com in 2001. Luck positioned him within the fingers of Lou Hoy Yuen, referred to as Uncle Lou, the chef at Mr. Keh’s Szechuan Style, one of many first Szechuan eating places in New York.
“I used to be uncovered to a degree of delicacies that almost all high skilled cooks weren’t capable of produce, and the requirements and flavors that I encountered gave me an incomparable schooling,” Mr. Schoenfeld stated. “Uncle Lou by no means explicitly confirmed me learn how to prepare dinner a selected merchandise. As a substitute he let me observe, like a grasp and a scholar. I discovered by watching, tasting and ultimately attempting to place my data into motion.”
He studied briefly at New York College earlier than dropping out to rearrange Chinese language banquets, which he financed by driving a taxi. On the facet, he wrote a meals and restaurant column, “Gravy Stains,” for the newspaper Brooklyn Heights Press. One night at Szechuan Style, he ordered an esoteric carps-head soup, thereby attracting the discover of Mr. Keh, the proprietor. The 2 struck up an acquaintance, and in 1973, when Mr. Keh opened Uncle Tai’s, one in every of New York’s first Hunan eating places, he employed Mr. Schoenfeld as his assistant.
“I used to be a hippy-dippy man, and he threw me within the tackiest blue tuxedo with an enormous frilly shirt and a bow tie,” he informed the web site Restaurant Girl in 2013. “I discovered myself on the entrance door of what was principally the most popular Chinese language restaurant within the nation with out ever having labored at a restaurant earlier than.”
The wild experience ended after two years, when warfare between rival factions within the restaurant’s kitchen claimed Mr. Schoenfeld as a casualty.