Tour the San Francisco's Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory |

2022-05-14 22:36:25 By : Ms. Wendy Pi

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nearly everything you see in this part of San Francisco has a Spirit of China. The food, shops, and the people. But there is one legendary business in this Chinatown that produces something you would not see in the Olympic host country.

"When you go to China, you ask for a fortune cookie, they will look at you like you're like a fool. What are you talking about? There's no such thing. Fortune cookies were invented in San Francisco. It was an American invention," said Kevin Chan, owner of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

For nearly six decades the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory has been producing fortune cookies, all by hand.

"I'll give you a number. If we're not lazy and my mom opens at 7:30 and I leave at midnight, I can pump out 15,000 per day," said Chan.

Kevin Chan's mom started the business in 1962.

"My mom has the recipe for life," said Chan.

She is still there and so are the same machines they used in 1962.

"You see this copper bite that puts out the batter? It goes around and takes about 4 minutes to bake. When they come out, the cookie is very hot, soft and pliable," said Chan.

Workers need to act fast. If they don't fold it in 4 seconds with the fortune inside the cookie will break.

"I call her the Chinese Lucille Ball. But she can't eat the cookies because the cookies are so hot. Lucille can eat all the chocolate because it's cold," said Chan.

It's not easy. I gave it a try and Made some but also broke some.

The store produces a variety of fortune cookies: traditional, flavored and extra large.

You can buy them with random fortunes inside or write a personalized message for someone. And there are some fortunes we can't discuss on TV.

"Of course, I've got some x-rated too if you want some. X-rated fortunes," said Chan.

One customer put $100 bills in fortune cookies. Others have added romance by putting a diamond ring in the cookie and proposing to their loved one.

The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is a magnate for celebrities. Pat Sajak and Vanna White came here along with Gordon Ramsey and Don Johnson too. Kevin's idol NBA star Klay Thompson is immortalized in this mural after visiting the store. 

But it has not been easy for this legendary business. The pandemic and Asian hate crimes kept visitors away even as the machines kept humming.

"Golden Gate Fortune Cookie depends on tourism. We have no tourists here," said Chan.

That is a familiar concern for Chinatowns across the country. They need people to come back.

I asked Kevin what fortune he'd write for the country.

"United we stand. We are Americans," said Chan.

It's a theme we heard in Chinatowns across the country.

"We are Americans. We are part of America. There should be no difference. We should not be picked on. We should be united, carry on and make America great," said Chan.

These are the immigrants who came to the United States, working hard and chasing their own fortune — in this case, one cookie at a time.

The "Spirit of China" series highlights the culture of Chinese-Americans across the United States. Learn about the people, the history and the challenges of Chinatowns in Chicago, New York and San Francisco while the world focuses on the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

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