Ever Wonder Who Writes the Fortunes in Those Cookies?


*We’ve all done it. After we finish eating our Chinese food, we can’t leave the table without cracking that fortune cookie open. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a whole visual thing going on inside my head about the kind of folks who write these “fortunes.” Sage-looking people. Old. Ancient. Long white beard.


…with teeth of course.

But no, I was wrong.

Meet Donald Lau, the CFO and CFW (Chief Fortune Writer) at Won Ton Food, Inc.

Lau says he considers what he does a form of art because he has to come up with a clever saying using 10 to 15 words.

“I can never write the Great American Novel, but I can write fortunes and be the most read author in the United States,” he muses.

According to CNN, Lau says the job was given to him by default, because he spoke the best English when the company was founded. But current Wonton Food CEO Norman Wong believes the job carries deep responsibilities in upholding Chinese tradition.
“We are a Chinese-American company,” Wong said. “We see it as our mission to spread Chinese culture and philosophy around the world.”

Listen to Mr. Lau talk about his work  here.

Fortune Cookie


Some say fortune cookies are not even a Chinese invention. Word on infoplease.com even states the darn cookie was created in California. Rumor has it that some man named David Jung, a Chinese immigrant living in L.A. who founded the Hong Kong Noodle Company, created it in 1918.

Reports say Americans were the inspiration for the little, crisp cookie. Chinese restaurants had no real “desserts” as part of their meals, but wanted to offers Americans (and our penchant for sweets) something familiar, yet with an exotic flair, so they started serving the little fortune cookies.

And if you wonder just how fortunate you may become after reading the good wishes wrapped inside of those cookies, an article in the New York Times actually states…

A surprisingly high number of winning tickets in Brazil’s national lottery in 2004 were traced to lucky numbers from fortune cookies distributed by a Chinese restaurant chain called Chinatown.

But Donald Lau is, of course, not the only “writer” fortunate” enough to hold the position of fortune writer. Heck, most of the writers of fortunes are not even Chinese. Sorry. There are many, of varying cultures and socioeconomic status, who lend their um…talents… to this work.

The Guardian writes…Kay Marshall Strom, 65, was a high school senior when she saw a little blurb in the local San Francisco newspaper asking for a fortune writer. Intrigued, she sent an inquiry – she had been contemplating becoming a writer when she grew up and figured, why not start small? She got the job.

Inspiration for the fortunes was everywhere – movies, walks outside, time spent with friends – and Strom would jot down ideas as they occurred to her throughout the day. The job lasted an entire year, and every few weeks, she would send batches of new fortunes to the company for approval.

The company skewed conservative, and some of her more creative and offbeat ideas got shot down. One idea that did make it through though became infamous: “You will be hungry again in an hour.”

Russell Rowland is another aspiring writer who landed a gig as fortune writer. And although he was given no guidelines, just a demand to create 700 fortunes (at 75 cents a wop back in 2000), he did a little research and found the book Great Thoughts, which has famous quotes. He would then come up with phrases like, “Love is the secret to happiness”, and then expand upon it.


Since that time Rowland has published four books, and Strom’s little fortune sayings are still in print.

No word on whether or not she still gets paid though.





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