By Sharon Yeo
Edmonton culinary institution Chicken for Lunch is closing after 32 years of business. The kiosk, located in the food court in Rice Howard Place (formerly Scotia Place), is known for its long line-ups and Amy Quon, its gregarious proprietor. Its last day of business will be Feb. 29.
Quon, whose family also owns and operates The Lingnan (which just celebrated its 75th anniversary in November), decided not to renew the lease ahead of the food court's planned six-month closure for renovations. Quon also shared that she turned 65 this year and challenges with her knees and hands have slowed her down. By closing Chicken for Lunch, Quon can now work exclusively at The Lingnan.
"Right now I get up at 5am and pick up my staff," said Quon. "I'm at Chicken for Lunch at seven and I work there until 2:30, and then work at The Lingnan until 10:30. Now, I can come at two. So Amy not retiring, only Chicken for Lunch retiring."
Quon opened Chicken for Lunch in 1992 when her youngest son was six (her husband, Kinman, was a partner in The Lingnan at the time, but their family did not yet own it outright). "Chicken for Lunch was my first restaurant," Quon said. "My kids were still young. I wanted a job from Monday to Friday, so after 2pm I can go home and be with my kids. That's why I chose an office building with short hours."
From the beginning, Quon focused on chicken because she observed that many people didn't eat pork and beef. But the menu evolved. "When I first started, I only had chicken burgers, chicken fingers, chicken cutlets, and clubhouse (sandwiches)," Quon said. "But I see people eat more spicy, and went the direction of ginger chicken, Korean chicken, Thai chicken, because I can see the crowd like it. I am not a (trained) cook, but what I do is go to the restaurant to eat, and go home and do experiments. It takes a long time to develop a recipe."
Quon's famous dry spicy chicken was adapted from a more traditional dish. "My husband and me know Canadians like crispy (things)," Quon said. "How can we make it crispy and spicy? Chinese have dry spicy tofu. Why don't we do some similar chicken?"