Founded by Nancy Chan in 1962 and now helmed by her son Kevin, this Bay Area institution remains the only American company to make fortune cookies by hand—some 15,000 daily, most of which wind up on the tables of local Chinese restaurants. Despite Kevin’s obviously busy schedule, the 51-year-old still takes time to add to Golden Gate’s library of 5,000-plus fortunes. SAVEUR asked the business owner and bakery bard to give us a behind-the-scenes look at this process.
SAVEUR: You’ve been writing fortunes for 20 years. How many have you come up with so far?
Kevin Chan: Maybe 1,000 or more. We’re always adding to our inventory. That said, I only write a new fortune when something inspires me.
S: Where do you draw your inspiration?
KC: I observe people throughout life. I listen to what they’re saying. How people interact and talk and move around is a language that I turn into fortunes.
S: What are some of your favorite messages?
KC: Any of the motivational ones. It’s always a simple message or greeting. “Never give up,” is a good example. “Use your talents—that’s what they’re intended for.” And the one I want to tell people right now: “A bad peace is better than a good wall.”
S: How do you decide which fortune goes into which cookie?
KC: Randomly! We have all of our fortunes printed out, and I draw from that pile. When I pick one up to fold into a cookie, I don’t know what I take. I don’t want to look because it ruins the surprise somehow, even though I’m not the one eating them.
S: You’ve made some changes since you took over the factory in 2015.
KC: I’ve added new flavors: strawberry, chocolate, and green tea. Also chocolate-dipped cookies. I introduced custom fortunes, which can be ordered for a party or event. The most requested is, of course, “Will you marry me?” Most of the time, they say yes.
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