Tell us a little about your cultural background and how it affects your cooking.
I was born in Minnesota and moved to Oakland when I was 2. My family is from the Island of Phu Quoc in Southern Vietnam. I grew up watching my parents make tapioca noodles and fresh coconut milk every Sunday in Oakland. The pure joy and care they placed into food and traditions stuck with me. I was amazed how much cooking can enrich the lives of others. Obsessed with this perspective, I set out to make cooking my journey.
What's your culinary experience?
My resume reflects a reverence for American culinary greats, skilled in classical European traditions. I've worked at some of the nation's top Michelin-rated restaurants, including Chez Panisse, Quince, Acquerello, Daniel Boulud, Breslin, Gotham Bar and Grill, Gramercy Tavern, and most recently, I was the Executive Chef at Gather in Berkeley.
What inspires you to cook and what are your goals as a chef?
It's who I am and what I do. I've been blessed to be able to move people through food and the dining experience I provide. I'd like to open a Chateau Relais-worthy high end resort/restaurant on my native island in Phu Quoc, Vietnam.
What are your values/philosophies as a chef?
Be original, cook what you know and what you are. Be local with your ingredients to support your community.
Where do you go to relax/unwind?
The ocean. I come from generations of free divers from Vietnam. We have a saying in our family--"If you dont take frequent trips to the ocean you are going to get sick."
What are some of your favorite Bay Area farms and food producers?
Hodo Soy Tofu - The owner is a good friend and he has some amazing Tofu
Devils Gulch Ranch - I love Mark's pigs
Dirty Girl Produce - Their beets are consistently amazing
Martin Bournesque - I love his variety and selection
Mendocino Sea and Vegetable Company - I love seaweed!
Kashiwase Farms - Best stone fruit and figs