Jimmy Chung with his son Bill, behind the bar at Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens. Courtesy of the Presidio Research Center, gift of Tommy Chung.
The Chung Family
“Jimmy,” James Yee Chung, was born in the Guandong province of China in 1910 and moved to Santa Barbara as a young man. After working at his father’s laundry for a few years, Jimmy operated restaurants on State Street and Cabrillo Boulevard before moving his business to Canon Perdido Street in 1947 at the encouragement of Elmer Whittaker. He and Mr. Whittaker built the restaurant and residence behind it in 1946. Chung operated Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens as a bar and grill, clearing the large dining room periodically for big band dances. His son Tommy, who took over the business in 1967, modified the menu to include more Chinese dishes, and took on all the cooking himself. In 2006, Tommy and his siblings William and Barbara Chung sold the restaurant and adjoining two-story home of the Chung family to SBTHP for eventual use as a museum.
Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, circa late 1950s, Courtesy of the Presidio Research Center.