Originally enchanted with Georgia from an early read of Gone with the Wind, Frank Ma moved from his small village of Kailu in northeast China in 1972 to lay down roots in Atlanta. He quickly realized that his import/export business would not be the ticket to success in the United States. Instead, Frank decided to take the cooking skills that his mother had imparted and adapt them for an American palate (less spice, more sweet). In 1975, he opened Atlanta’s first restaurant featuring the Peking-style cuisines of northern China. Frank named it Hunan Restaurant and found a home for it in the suburb of Sandy Springs. Over the years, Frank has opened and closed a handful of Chinese restaurants in the Atlanta area. Since leaving the kitchen for retirement, Frank has maintained an active role as a restaurant consultant, helping to usher in a younger generation of Chinese restaurateurs in Atlanta. He has also embraced the food of his adopted homeland, making regular morning appearances at his neighborhood Waffle House.
Date of interview:
May 9, 2010