A chef living the American dream.
Born to a poor family in Vietnam, Doug was coming
of age when the communists were taking over his
homeland. At the age of 12 his mother arranged for
him to leave Vietnam by boat. She wanted a better
life for her son and, although he did not want to
leave his family behind, she insisted that he go.
Alone and afraid, Doug boarded a small, cramped
boat and took to the sea. A long and arduous journey
to America had begun. Just beyond the waters surrounding
Vietnam the boat's engine failed.
For 28 days Doug and the other refugees floated
helplessly in the South China Sea. Eventually, they
were pulled to safety by a group of Thai fishermen.
The refugees docked their boat on a sandy beach
and were soon transported to a refugee camp in Thailand.
Doug lived in that camp for a year before an Italian-American
family from Rockland, New York sponsored his trip
to America. Far away from home, and speaking little
English, Doug was taken in by the Nardone family.
They shared his immigrant roots and had a passion
for food that he quickly learned to appreciate.
His new father was a butcher and his mom a great
16 years of age, Doug began washing dishes in a
series of Japanese and Chinese restaurants in Rockland
County. Inspired by the many chefs he admired from
afar, his passion for preparing food grew as did
his appreciation for the look of food. As Doug loves
to say, "You eat with your eyes, too."
years of working for other chefs, Doug decided to
venture out on his own and opened his first restaurant
in Rockland County, where was able to experiment
and blend different styles of cuisine.
He quickly made a name for himself as a master sushi
chef and built an enormous following which followed
him when he opened Wasabi
in the river town of Nyack, New York in September
It often reminds New Yorkers a cross between of
Nobu and Little Italy. If you visit the kitchen
at lunch time, you might find a huge pot of house-made
pasta and red sauce on the fire, Doug's favorite
dish from momma.
all his hard work paid off and Doug was able to
return to Vietnam and build his birthmother the
house he had promised her when he was a child. In
time, she turned the land around her home into a
shrimp farming business and today she supplies shrimp
to the food service industry in Vietnam.
Nguyen's story is one that's based in love: his
love for his family in Vietnam, his love for his
life in America and his unrelenting passion and
love of food. Luckily for those who patronize either
of his restaurants, you can taste that love in every
morsel of food he creates.
a lifetime of hard work, that love was rewarded.
A few months after it opened in 2006, Wasabi
Chi in South Norwalk was awarded a
"Very Good" by no less an authority than
the New York Times.
Dreams truly can come true.