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David Leong dies at 99

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David Leong, the Springfield restaurateur who's known as the father of Springfield-style cashew chicken, died yesterday. He would have turned 100 years old next month.

Lanie Leong Cutbirth, Leong's granddaughter, confirmed his death via email. She also made a public Facebook post earlier this morning.

"He was truly an extraordinary person. His kindness and generosity were beyond measure," she said in the post. "He stormed the beaches of Normandy, invented cashew chicken and did countless other amazing things."

Leong founded Leong's Asian Diner in 2010 with his family at 1540 W. Republic Road.

Prior to his cashew chicken fame, Leong immigrated to the United States from the Guangdong province of China – previously known as Canton – in 1940. He served in the U.S. Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor and was in the fourth wave of troops to land on Omaha Beach during D-Day, according to Springfield Business Journal archives.

After serving as an Army cook, he opened Leong’s Tea House on West Sunshine Street in October 1963. To persuade patrons to try Chinese food, he created a version of boneless fried chicken, covered in gravy, according to SBJ archives. Springfield-style cashew chicken was born.

Leong's Tea House closed in 1997.

Leong's take on cashew chicken gained him international notoriety, and he's been featured by the likes of The New York Times and PBS, according to SBJ archives.


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Matthew H.

David Leong is inspirational. So many great, innovative businesspeople right here in Springfield, MO.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020
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