The New York Chef With a Killer Bruce Lee Connection

The Beatrice Inn's Angie Mar is among Food & Wine's "Best New Chefs" of 2017

Wildwood House Ltd.

It’s a side note that will almost certainly be mentioned whenever the topic of coverage is Beatrice Inn owner and chef Angie Mar. Once upon a time, her late aunt, Ruby Chow, employed in Seattle a waiter named Bruce Lee.

Yes, that Bruce Lee. The future martial arts star moved in 1959 from San Francisco to Seattle and, through a family friend, not only got a job at Ruby Chow’s restaurant but lived in a space above the establishment as well.

The Beatrice Inn’s Angie Mar is one of 12 chefs highlighted in Food & Wine magazine’s latest annual selection of “Best New Chefs.” From a media point of view, there’s another interesting bit of early history involving Lee’s time in Seattle. Per a reminiscence by high school friend and classmate James Demile:

Many times I went to meet Bruce so that we could work out only to be told that Bruce would not be allowed to leave until he had cleaned all the floors at Ruby Chow’s Restaurant. (Ruby Chow was Bruce’s American sponsor; Bruce lived upstairs over her restaurant and was required to sweep the floors every day.) Bruce also worked at the local newspaper, The Seattle Times, every Saturday night stuffing the comic section into the Sunday paper. …

We used to practice wherever was available at the time–basements, parking lots and in each others’ homes. It was during these dynamic sessions that Bruce developed his famous one and three inch floating punch, whereby he could generate sufficient power from a short distance to lift someone 200 pounds off his feet and knock him into a chair a short distance away.

Right below Mar in the Food & Wine scroll is Jay Blackinton, who earned his early stripes as a chef in Seattle by dumpster diving for ingredients and supporting himself as a bike messenger. Ruby Chow’s, by the way, was the first Chinese restaurant opened in Seattle outside of the Chinatown area. Lee’s time there was rough. From the book Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit:

Lee was not exactly a natural at taking orders and there were daily complaints from customers about his attitude. His treatment of the other waiters and kitchen staff was not much better, and his relationship with Chow was one of open hostility. …

“I took care of him for four years,” said Chow. “I raised five children and I treated him like a second son. He was just not the sort of person you want your children to grow up like—he was wild and undisciplined, he had no respect.”

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.