Peking Pavilion is a staple of the Manalapan dining scene, first opened by the Kuo family in Richmond, Virginia in the early 80s before relocating to a then-empty stretch of Route 33 in Manalapan. And while much has changed for the restaurant in the intervening 38 years, from shifts in ownership to a devastating fire in 2004, one constant is chef Long Sun, who started as a kitchen helper in 1989. Today, he’s the restaurant’s head chef.

The restaurant business is infamous for high turnover, which makes chef Sun’s story all the more incredible. According to Dufan Li, whose Mogao Hospitality bought Peking Pavilion from the Kuos in 2020, even as a 16-year-old kitchen helper, Sun made his name on an attention to detail and a willingness to learn.

“From the beginning, when the older chefs told him to do anything, he was very careful in listening to their instructions,” Li said. “So he had potential at that time to keep our dishes up to our standards. And that’s why he was promoted from kitchen helper to fryer, then line cook, then sous chef.”


After the 2004 fire, while Peking Pavilion was closed for repairs, chef Sun worked at the now-relocated Flushing staple Fu Run, which specializes in cuisine from the Dongbei region in northeastern China. His time there allowed the chef to grow his repertoire and expand his knowledge of Chinese cooking, and in 2007 he returned to Peking Pavilion to take over the role of head chef.

Even today, Peking Pavilion remains true to its roots in Chinese-American cooking. While the American diner has since developed a greater understanding of authentic Chinese food, Li and chef Sun believe that Chinese-American food is a cuisine entirely its own, one with an enduring appeal. One of chef Sun’s key contributions to the Peking Pavilion menu has been to bring a new, modern approach to presentation.

“After chef Sun took over the kitchen, he rethought how we presented our food,” Li said. “Most of the dishes on our menu right now, the presentation is from him. He redesigned everything, putting more of an emphasis on garnishes. It’s really changed everything.”

Another innovation chef Sun brought to Peking Pavilion is the introduction of monthly specials. While the overall menu is primarily composed of the legacy dishes that made the restaurant locally famous, the flexibility of monthly specials has allowed chef Sun to excite and surprise longtime customers. For his Year of the Dragon menu, the chef included classics such as Changzhou-style soup dumplings and wok-fried crab claws stuffed with minced shrimp.

Two of chef Sun’s hallmark plates, dishes he’s perfected over his nearly 40-year tenure with the restaurant, are the Peking Imperial and Chicken Imperial. Stir-fried in a tangy sweet sauce, the Peking Imperial is a classic surf-and-turf combo of lobster and filet mignon. Saucework is the corner stone of Chinese-American cooking, and chef Sun has tweaked and developed his sauces over a lifetime in the kitchen.

Peking Pavilion is known for its refined and relaxed atmosphere, and both chef Sun and Li pride themselves on the restaurant remaining, first and foremost, a family establishment. With such a long-standing pedigree in Manalapan, the success of that formula speaks for itself. As Li pointed out, generations of customers have walked through the restaurant’s doors, and honoring that legacy is always front of mind for the restaurant’s staff. “Last year we renovated the restaurant, and our designer asked if we wanted a giant sign out front,” Li said. “And everybody our neighbors, the township, our customers said we didn’t need it. And that’s because Peking Pavilion is already a landmark in the area. Our relationship with this community is strong.”

Chef Sun’s methodical journey from kitchen helper to head chef is far from finished. As Mogao Hospitality looks to expand on Peking Pavilion’s success with more restaurants, Li is specifically appointing chef Sun to take over menu development for potential new locations. In many ways, it’s a poetic next step for a chef who made his reputation on perfecting longtime recipes. The restaurant’s founders, the Kuo family, remain onboard today as consultants, and chef Sun, who’s been with the restaurant since its origin, is one of their best resources.

“Chef Sun will be moving into a research and development position,” Li said. “He’ll still manage the kitchen over the next few years, but he’ll also handle culinary invention, and I can’t think of a better person to design our dishes. You can’t just copy and paste in the restaurant business. You have to always be improving.”

Constant improvement might as well be chef Sun’s motto: in a notoriously grueling and time-consuming industry, he has spent almost four decades improving his skills and demonstrating to everyone along the way that he is the right person for the job. Peking Pavilion wouldn’t be what it is today without chef Sun, and for a cook, that’s the greatest achievement of all.

Peking Pavilion

110 NJ-33, Manalapan Township / 732.308.9700 /