Michelle Nguyen

Born in Portland, Maine and raised in Portland, Oregon, Michelle Nguyen is no stranger to a daily feast at an oversized dinner table. Her household, headed by immigrants from Vietnam, numbered up to thirteen members under one roof, which meant everyone’s help was always needed in the kitchen. A lifelong cook, she came to us with professional experience in some of our favorite local restaurants, from Spring Hill to Mistral Kitchen to Joule.

But like the rest of us, she took the long way around into a culinary career, studying urban planning at the University of Oregon and working in retail before opening a coffee shop in downtown Seattle. It was at the Seattle Culinary Academy, however, that she discovered a newfound intensity, earning herself a disciplinary file for “bullying” along the way (we prefer to think of it as an abundance of enthusiasm). It’s hard not to get enthusiastic about her cooking, full as it is of bold flavors, influenced by her travels in India, Japan and Vietnam.