Irene Kuo (1919 – 1993) was born in Shanghai, China, but moved permanently to the United States after the fall of the Chinese Nationalist Party in 1949. Combining her experience as the official hostess of the Chinese Embassy in Rome, Italy with her childhood memories of food and cooking, she opened two popular restaurants in New York City. For more than 25 years, she hosted annual Chinese New Year’s banquets, conducted cooking classes and demonstrations, and promoted both the culinary and cultural aspects of Chinese food on television with celebrities like David Frost, Johnny Carson and Joan Rivers.
In 1972, Kuo proposed writing The Key to Chinese Cooking to the legendary food editor Judith Jones. Published five years later, it was hailed as the definitive book on Chinese cooking, and received the prestigious Tastemaker Award for best international cookbook and best first-time author. She later produced a line of Chinese cooking utensils, recipes and spices for Bloomingdale’s and Spiegel's. While working on her second book focused on home-style recipes, Kuo was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died in Los Angeles in 1993. She is widely recognized for her descriptive style of writing and her introduction to the four basic techniques used in Chinese cooking.