Tagged: History

The Beginnings of Fusion Cuisine & Exhibition Cooking

The food menu at Trader Vic’s has evolved over the years. In the very beginning, at Hinky Dinks, the food served was limited to sandwiches and light fare cooked on the pot-bellied stove Trader Vic brought in from home! (Fun fact: You can see the potbellied stove from Hinky Dinks at Trader Vic’s Emeryville displayed in the BBQ Oven Room).
1st Food Menu “Trader Vic at Hinky Dinks”

1st Food Menu “Trader Vic at Hinky Dinks”

 In 1938, Trader Vic wanted to expand the menu by serving Chinese food along with his tropical cocktails. He visited Chinatown in downtown Oakland with his bartender, Paul Wong. Together, they studied the preparation and cooking of Chinese food in the woks.

By the end of the 1930s, the first Chinese Wood Fired Oven* was built, and the small kitchen had a wok. It was Paul’s uncle who built the first BBQ ovens behind the restaurant, using only a rock and string as a plumb line for measuring. He became the cook for all the barbecued food later on. This method of cooking was on display behind a window in the dining room. One might say that exhibition cooking began with Trader Vic’s! The first official printed food menu featured shared appetizers, wok-sautéed rice and noodle dishes, and ribs cooked in the ovens.

By the 1940s, there was a complete revision of the menu featuring the following new sections: “With Cocktails”, “Curry Dishes”, “Pake Dishes”, and most notably “from my Barbeque Oven”. In tandem with the menu changes, Trader Vic expanded the cocktail menu offerings. This menu showcases his interest in new flavors and seasonings from around the world.

Influenced by a visit to the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in 1939, most notably the “Pageant of the Pacific” showcasing goods from nations bordering the Pacific, this launched his epicurean journey for the years to come.


“As the boundaries of human intercourse are widened by giant strides of trade and travel, it is of vital import that the bonds of human understanding be maintained, enlarged and strengthened rapidly. Unity of the Pacific nations is America's concern and responsibility; their onward progress deserves now a recognition that will be a stimulus as well.

Washington is remote from the Pacific. San Francisco stands at the doorway to the sea that roars upon the shores of all these nations, and so to the Golden Gate International Exposition I gladly entrust a solemn duty. May this, America's World's Fair on the Pacific in 1939, truly serve all nations in symbolizing their destinies, one with every other, through the ages to come.”

— President Franklin D. Roosevelt, via radio, during the opening ceremonies.[19]>


*The design of Trader Vic’s Chinese wood fired ovens can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 b.c. to 20 a.d.) and are built onsite in our restaurants. The ovens are encased in glass so that our guests can see this unique operation.