The next step in Peter Chang’s incredible culinary journey is a return to his roots, both in Northern Virginia and central China. Named for the female influences in his life, Mama Chang is expected to open by the end of January 2019 in Fairfax, where the former chef for the Chinese embassy began his restaurant career cooking under an assumed name at China Star about 15 years ago.
Now an accomplished restaurateur with several eponymous properties under his belt, Chang’s latest project will feature “home-style” cooking. That means the cuisine of Chang’s native Hubei province will be represented alongside dishes from the neighboring Hunan province and, of course, tongue-tingling Sichuan specialities that helped grow Chang’s following in the first place.
The savory cooking of accomplished pastry chef Lisa Chang, Peter’s wife, will play a big role. So will influences from Peter Chang’s daughter, Lydia Chang, as well as his mother and grandmother.
According to a news release, a sampling of the menu at Mama Chang includes techniques used to preserve food. There will be smoked chicken, smoked sausage, cured fish, and sweet and sour pickled cabbage. Other dishes mentioned are braised and stir fried pork belly and a tea-braised egg and pork belly stew with bean curd.
Nahra Design Group, which put together Chang’s latest restaurant, Q by Peter Chang in Bethesda, was tasked with creating a lighter, more lady-like feel for the new Fairfax restaurant located at 3251 Old Lee Highway. There are also Peter Chang outposts in Rockville and Arlington.
Tim Carman of the Washington Post profiled Chang in 2015, detailing how the Hubei farm boy evolved into a master in the kitchen. Upon leaving the Chinese Embassy in 2003, Chang began hiding his identity and hopping from restaurant to restaurant because he was worried about breaking an agreement to return to his native country. In that story, Carman writes how Chang’s paternal grandmother convinced him to commit to his culinary studies with a speech on her deathbed.
In 2010, Calvin Trillin of the New Yorker wrote about how Chang’s cooking drew such notice from fans that it was hard for him to remain anonymous no matter where he fled.