Q. Culinary school trained or self-taught?
A. I went to our very own Long Beach City College Culinary Arts Program!
Q. What is your favorite food from your childhood?
A. I was pretty simple… I loved fried chicken.
Q. What is the last thing you cooked for yourself?
A. Marinated grilled steak, sliced capicola meat, jalapenos, slice carrots, hoison reduction, sriracha soy aioli, topped with fresh cilantro. It’s my twist on a banh mi sandwich in a bowl.
Q. Favorite knife and why?
A. I adore the butcher knife, but what says “Chef” like a Chef’s knife. In my case, my blade; it’s the weapon I carry to battle in the kitchen. I even have it tattooed across my arm.
Q. Favorite pot or pan and why?
A. A cast iron pan. Oh how I can make such beautiful food with it, and it last’s a whole life time. Talk about commitment.
Q. Favorite kitchen appliance and why?
A. The stove top… “the burner” is the one station where I can make sauces, do stir-fry, sear meats, sauté vegetables. The one station where I can make the best of foods. Watching me work this station is like watching a martial arts master at work; fluid, confident, fast, strong, bold, fierce, passionate.
Q. Favorite kitchen utensil and why?
A. My tongs. I feel like it’s my hand and my fingers at times, like it’s an extension of myself. I feel like it’s one of my body parts.
Q. How would you describe working in your kitchen?
A. Oh, how I love cooking! Nothing makes me happier. The comaraderie of my team on the line, the adrenaline and the rush of a packed house… just pure excitement. Then there are the banquets, which require organization and leadership, plating techniques and patience. And finally the paperwork, the stuff all chefs do behind the scenes.
Q. Your worst kitchen experience?
A. I once cut myself really bad, and then burned the same hand, the same night. I pushed myself until service was over, being understaffed and with a full house. One thing about me, is that I’ll never give up.
Q. Five things you can’t live without in the kitchen?
A. Chef’s knife, pan, tong, burner, towel
Q. What and where would we find you eating on your day off?
A. Noodles. I love noodles, add meat, add vegetable, the broth, man cures everything, especially Monday Blues.
Q. Ultimate fantasy meal – what, where and with who (living or dead)?
A. With Julia Child, in Paris, overlooking the Eiffel tower, in a small café, drinking coffee and having a bowl of her Boeuf Bourguignon (French beef burgundy) talking about my new restaurant concepts.
Q. Fun fact about yourself?
A. I quit drinking for two years just to see how long I can go. That’s how mentally strong I put myself through.
Q. Something in your fridge or freezer that would surprise people?
A. TV Dinners (I live with two nephews and a little niece).
Q. What are your guilty pleasures?
A. Oh man. Plenty… many! But let’s keep this just food! Chinese roast duck, I can actually eat the whole duck in one sitting!
Q. What do you like to do outside of work?
A. Basketball. I love getting my games in with the guys, the teamwork reminds me of the kitchen sometimes. I also love movies. I’m a movie freak – I have movies like books in a library. If I wasn’t a chef, for sure I would’ve been a movie director.
Q. What’s on your Bucket List?
A. One day to visit the motherland, Cambodia and Thailand.
Chef “T” lives in the Cambodia Town neighborhood of Long Beach, California.