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America's Top Fortune Cookie Writer Is Quitting Because of Writer's Block

Feb 03, 2017

The man who's been delivering us inspiring fortunes for 30 years is nearly out of ideas.

For 30 years, Donald Lau has served as "Chief Fortune Writer" at Wonton Foods, which bills itself as the largest manufacturer of fortune cookies, noodles, and other Chinese staples. Now, he's stepping down.

Why? He's got writer's block.

"I used to write 100 a year, but I've only written two or three a month over the past year," Lau recently told Time.

In the '80s, when Lau first landed the role at the Queens and Brooklyn-based company, cookie fortunes were, well, fortuitous (think: "A dream you have will come true"). But today, he says, the premium is on new, inspirational sayings that promote Yogi tea bag-style well-being.

The pressure has led Lau to hand his soothsaying responsibilities to another employee: James Wong, a nephew of the company's founder. Lau will continue to serve as Wonton Food's Chief Financial Officer.

Time writes:

The company has explored fortune-writing contests and soliciting fortunes online, and they also keep track of diner reactions. A run of brutally honest fortunes about a decade ago didn't go over well, and authorities briefly investigated the company in 2005, after 110 Powerball lottery players won about $19 million after using the "lucky numbers" on the back of fortunes. Once a jilted wife wrote in to complain that her husband had gotten a fortune promising him romance on his next business trip, and a satisfied customer wrote to say he got a new job after reading a fortune about a new opportunity coming his way.

"When they eat their fortune cookie, I want the customers to open the fortune, read it, maybe laugh, and leave the restaurant happy," [Lau] says, "so that they come back again next week."

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