Who We Are
The idea behind ‘Who We Are’ is to shine a light on yourself and other food service workers in our county and to blur the lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’. We are a family of dedicated workers and I encourage you to celebrate our connections rather than focus on our differences. We are all an important part of the world-renowned culinary scene in Portland and it’s time we see Who We Are.
Join us by filling out the brief survey to get your picture and brief bio posted in the Chefs Connection. Dare to see and be seen.
Type of food service: Vietnamese Restaurant
Originally from: Vietnam
How you got here: When I was young, my grandma and mom had a restaurant in Vietnam and I helped out a little bit. I came to Portland by myself when I was 19. I started as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant then I went to Nike and became a technician on the production line. Next, I moved into Nike’s foodservice and cooked 8 years.
During that time I had my own restaurant at SE 21st and Burnside. I worked at my restaurant from 9am – 4pm and then went to Nike from 5:30pm – 5:30am. I would sleep only 2 hours a day. I did that for 8 years. I had a wife and two kids and I needed to take care of them.
I ended up selling the restaurant and stayed at Nike cooking for the next couple of years until I bought another restaurant. I owned that one for 2 years but it didn’t work out with my partner. We closed it and I just did international style catering instead which I really liked. My mom owned this restaurant and when she needed help, I would come work for her. After about 2 years she said she just wanted to retire and so I took it over. That was 15 years ago. Our restaurant was nominated this year for the James Beard award. We are very proud of that and our food.
Biggest challenge with food code: I always try to do my best. It can be hard to keep the staff following the rules.
Favorite thing about the business: We serve 100% authentic Vietnamese food - no MSG, nothing frozen. I have to go to 6 or 7 stores each morning to get the fresh ingredients. Fresh vegetables are very important to our food. I like to cook the food that makes them happy and then that makes me happy. I had a person come in and say he was here 5 years ago and the sandwich was so good he came back. And it is just as good today, he said. That makes me very happy.
Hours worked daily: I work about 14 hours a day. I shop in the morning starting at 5:30 and work in the restaurant all day. We close at 4pm. I take a break and go home for dinner and then return to the restaurant to make preparations for the next day.
Favorite food: Pho