Chef/Owner The Pig and The Lady
Where were you born and raised? I was born here in Honolulu. I might not have been, though. My parents were on their way from Vietnam to a refugee camp in Arkansas, when my mother went into labor over Honolulu and the plane made an emergency landing. My brother was born, and my family settled here in Hawaii.
You had classical training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and then worked at Chef Mavro here in Honolulu, but you left that job to “pop-up” and find your own voice. After some very well-deserved success, you are finally moving into your own restaurant. How’s the response been to that news? It’s been quite overwhelming really. A very positive response.
Feeling some pressure? (laughs) Yes … but it’s a good kind of pressure – we’re excited and we just don’t want to disappoint anyone. But when you are put in this position, with people waiting for you and with this kind of pressure, you have to perform. I think that’s where we shine.
And if that pressure wasn’t enough, your Pho French Dip Banh Mi was just voted the No. 1 dish in a list of the Top 100 Things to Eat in Hawaii. Is there any way that sandwich can get any better? Of course. I think it’s natural to be always thinking of how you cannot just keep the standard high but also make the dishes better. So with every detail of every dish we are focused on getting better all the time.
Where do you like to go to eat? As of late, my main diet is coffee. But when not opening a restaurant, I like to eat very simple, straightforward food like noodles. Boring really, but noodles are very versatile.
Do you cook at home? People might not believe this, but because we are so busy right now we’re not really taking time to take care of ourselves, so last night we were home late and all we had in the kitchen was box pasta, a little bit of mustard and Tabasco. So we had mustard Tabasco pasta for dinner.
How did it taste? Just awful. It was pasta with mustard and Tabasco. How can that taste good? It was just so sad.
Who would you like to invite to The Pig and The Lady for dinner? Don’t laugh, Iron Chef Chen Kenichi – he’s so awesome. I know it’s dorky, but he’s kind of a hero from my childhood (and Optimus Prime, of course), and maybe Jeremy Fox from Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica. His food is just so focused and clean …
If you survive opening the restaurant, what will the menu look like? There won’t be one signature dish. We’re creating a menu where you should get a variety of things, order family style and enjoy.
The Pig and the Lady@Lemongrass Café Opens Nov. 12.