Restauranter Ed Schoenfeld’s Death at 72 Breaks Hearts
Unfortunately, the owner of Manhattan’s Red Farm restaurants, Ed Schoenfeld passed away at his home in Newark, N.J. Ed Schoenfeld’s cause of death has been reported as long-time cancer on Friday morning, January 14, 2022.
Schoenfeld was not Chinese himself, but over a five-decade career in the hospitality industry, the Jewish New Yorker reported the rise of the city’s white-tablecloth Chinese restaurants in the US, often in informal oral histories.
The Brooklyn-born restauranter’s personal history about Chinese cooking dates back to the late 1960s when he worked as a taxi driver in New York City. He learned by cookbook author and famed culinary instructor Grace Chu, organizing Cantonese banquet dinners, especially for non-Chinese New Yorkers, on the side to increase his income by classified ads for his business.
He helped restaurateur David Keh open Uncle Tai’s Hunan Yuan in 1973, which later went on to become the city’s 2nd Chinese restaurant to receive a four-star rating from the New York Times.
Ed Schoenfeld opened many restaurants, including the West Village’s Red Farm, an ode to Chinese-American cooking he opened with chef Joe Ng in 2011, which was a direct hit, and locations on the Upper West Side and in London followed. Eater referred to him as “a walking encyclopedia of Chinese food” in 2012. Ed opened Decoy, “a shrine to Peking duck” located beneath his original Red Farm restaurant in 2013.
The restauranter’s visits to the restaurants became less frequent after being diagnosed with liver cancer back in August 2019, but he remained involved until the very end, his son, Eric Schoenfeld says. “He checked the books every day.”
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Brooklyn-Born Chinese Restaurant Owner’s Life and Career
Born on September 19, 1949, Edward Lawrence Schoenfeld was the only child of Theodore and Lillian (Pesses) Schoenfeld. He was born in Jersey City, N.J., and grew up in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn.
When he was 15, he spent a summer studying social issues with the farm labor leader Cesar Chavez at the Encampment for Citizenship in Berkeley, California.
When school let out early on Friday afternoons, Ed would help his maternal grandmother, Goldie Pesses, make chicken soup, kreplach, kishke, and blintzes and spend time in the kitchen.
Ed became obsessed with Chinese food early on. “I must have been 11 or 12 when I first went to the Great Shanghai on Broadway and 102nd Street. I remember having my first spring roll! Not an egg roll, this was thinner and more delicate,” he said in 2018.
Mr. Schoenfeld moved on to work for the Milstein real estate company, where he was responsible for the development of restaurants on their estates. In 1990, he formed a collaboration with restaurateur Vincent Orgera to create Vince and Eddie’s, a homely American eatery on West 68th Street, as well as a seafood branch, Fishin Eddie (West 71st).
In 1992, he returned to Chinese food with Chop Suey Looey’s Litchi Lounge on West 55th Street in Midtown, which was extravagantly kitschy. Later, he launched China Brasserie on Lafayette Street in Lower Manhattan as a showcase for his newest protégé, Hong Kong-born chef Joe Ng.
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Reactions to Ed Schoenfeld’s Death
Several fans, friends, and supporters reacted and stated their condolences on social media websites following this tragic news.
Jacqueline Raposo wrote: “So sad to hear of the passing of Ed Schoenfeld. I learned so much from him. He fed us all so well. Learn a bit from him in this old piece I wrote for @seriouseats w/ editing love from @maxfalkowitz.”
Max Gross tweeted: “I went to St. Ann’s with Ed Schoenfeld’s son Eric (an all-around terrific person). Later I wrote about Ed when he started Red Farm and spent a lovely afternoon with him and his wife in their New Jersey house. Rest in peace.”
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Schoenfeld leaves behind his wife, two sons, Adam and Eric, and four grandchildren.
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