In the Bay Area section of the NYT on February 11, Bernice Yeung’s “Lost for Years, a Trove of Chinatown Art Is Tracked Down”:
It’s a modern detective story, set in San Francisco’s atmospheric Chinatown.
It took an out-of-the-blue e-mail and some old-fashioned legwork, but Sue Lee of San Francisco’s Chinese Historical Society of America has solved a mystery that had stumped scholars of Chinese-American art for decades: the case of the missing Jake Lee paintings [depicting Chinese-Americans in a variety of activities].
… The paintings [originally displayed in Kan’s Restaurant, founded by Johnny Kan in 1972] are the focal point of Ms. Lee’s exhibit [on the gallery space at the historical society]. But the show is also an homage to Mr. Kan, who is credited with introducing Cantonese fine dining to Americans, and inventing the restaurant-sized lazy susan.
OED2 has this subentry under lazy:
Lazy Susan n. (also lazy susan) orig. U.S. a revolving (wooden) stand on a table to hold condiments, etc.
with cites from 1917 on, though the objects themselves (under the name dumb-waiter) had an earlier history, and the Wikipedia entry asserts (without references) that the object
could be credited to the Chinese, who used it for their movable type. Rotating it made it easier to get the characters they needed to complete a sentence or phrase.
The Wikipedia entry goes on with an extremely dubious (but entertaining) etymology. On the more scholarly side, Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words discussion concludes that the source of the name is still a mystery.
No word from any source about the history of the Chinese-restaurant lazy susan (like the one above), though it’s possible that Johnny Kan was a vector in its spread.
The origins of lychee ice cream are, if anything, more obscure, since the confection appears in (at least) Chinese, Japanese, and Thai culinary contexs (and has been available for decades in a number of Chinatowns). Maybe Johnny Kan was important in the history of lychee ice cream in San Francisco, but the idea of making such a thing must have occurred to a number of people independently; basically, all you need is the idea of ice cream plus the culinary use of lychees, and you’re good to go.