Watch Southern California humorist/chef compete for “Great American Recipe” – Orange County Register

His home in Irvine is almost clean and quiet with the soothing sounds of Miles Davis blowing a solo cerebral horn in the background. His wife is at work and there is no sign of his two daughters, aged 6 and 8, except for two small specks of some red, sticky, and sticky candy left by little fingers on the large wooden dining room table and a couple of plastic cups.

It’s a soup and salad lunch of grilled Spam bánh mì and creamy cauliflower soup the vichyssoise style. Sure, it’s a home scene, but Vu Nguyen is no ordinary dad.

In a few days, millions of viewers can see his face as they watch him compete in the first season of “The Great American Recipe,” a new eight-part competition series that celebrates the multiculturalism of American cuisine. The show will premiere at 9 p.m. on Friday, June 24 and run through August 12 on PBS.

In a similar format to “The Great British Baking Show,” 10 talented home chefs will serve dishes inspired by their backgrounds: Syrian, Hungarian, Mexican, Italian, Puerto Rican, Southern and Filipino soul food. In each episode, hosted by chef, writer and “Today” contributor Alejandra Ramos, contestants will prepare two signature dishes they hope will win the national quest for “The Great American Recipe.”

Among the judges are restaurateurs, “Top Chef” contestants Lea Cohen and Tiffany Derry as well as Graham Elliott, judge on the “MasterChef” and “MasterChef Junior” series, and founder of a eponymous Chicago diner that earned two Michelin stars in 2008.

Nguyen, 49, was born in Nha Trang in southeast Vietnam and will go through his family’s favorite recipes. He came to the United States at three, after the fall of Saigon, and grew up in Ohio, where his mother cooked her native kitchen, and his father insisted that their eight children speak Vietnamese at home.

Although Nguyen didn’t have a television set growing up, limiting his kids’ viewing to only weekends, he does have a hidden talent for entertainment: he’s an aspiring comedian. We had to talk to him to get him involved in the new show and why he was so proud of the competition. We only saw the first episode without the elimination scene – so we promise there are no spoilers!

Q: I grew up in Ohio. What was it like?

a. There was only one Asian family we went to school with. It was a Filipino family and we became good friends by default. … When you’re young, you don’t know what racism and detachment are, you just internalize things. So, I lived there until I was about 22 years old. I know I’ve had racist experiences, but it’s not like I’ve been oppressed in any way, shape, or form.

Q: Everyone says Irvine is a great place to raise kids with good schools. How do you like it?

a. Because I grew up in the Midwest, I wasn’t exposed to cultural diversity. It is predominantly white. So I still have the awareness, “Wow! There are a lot of Asians here.” I embrace him. It is wonderful!

Q: What does your wife do?

a. She works for a game company.

Q: Do you have a day job?

a. I am a husband, father and humorist.

Q: How did you get into comedy?

a. I moved to Chicago and studied with The Second City and then met my wife – who is Korean – at a national comedy company. It’s an all-Asian company called Stir Friday Night. So we walked around and performed.

Q: That’s funny. Is she working as a comedy too?

a. Yes, it does work. She is more than an actress.

Q: Back to food. Many chefs, such as Wolfgang Puck, Rick Martinez and others, have drawn inspiration from their mothers. How cool would it be to spread your mom’s recipes to the world?

a. My God. It’s tearful to me because she’s 85 and she has dementia. And that was really something: her love of cooking, that she fed her family without money, and then many of the dishes were labour-intensive.

Q: It looks difficult.

a. She was feeding nine people. So she goes to the butcher’s and markets – I went with her – and I hand-pick each ingredient. Mind you, we’re in the Midwest. So a lot of these ingredients, she can’t find them. She had to try to find ways to replicate those flavors. And she didn’t speak English well. The effort I put into those dishes, that’s why I cook. This is why my mother is such a huge influence on my passion for cooking.

Q: How does your cooking fit into comedy?

a. I am writing a show. And I don’t know if I’m making it a preemptive show or a loosely written one-man show, based on my improvisational background. But the opening phrase is, “Have you eaten?”

Q: This is a Vietnamese greeting, right?

a. It’s “I love you”. It’s “I want to talk to you.” It’s “How was your day?” It’s “Have you eaten?”

Q: It’s like “Aloha” which means different things, right?

a. yes. So when I call Mum and Dad, that’s what we say.

Q: That’s nice. I have to ask, as most people at So Cal know, Vietnamese food is delicious – so what are its advantages in the competition?

a. Vietnamese food is herbal and full of flavour. It’s healthy. It’s light. It is fragrant. He is affectionate.

Q: This software seems more friendly than some of its competitors like Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen. Was it a good idea for PBS to focus more on the educational aspect of it?

a. 100%. This removed a lot of anxiety and tension and allowed all the contestants to befriend each other, and let down their guards. I had a great time with them and learned a lot from them too.

Q: Good luck, even though we know all episodes are already taped. So, what’s next for you?

a. I want to do this hour-long presentation next year about food and my experience, my upbringing, and my relationship with food. My wife and I put together a meal planning company called Comfort Foo Dee under my Comfort Foo Dee brand, like my YouTube channel. If I can do justice to my mom and sisters cooking, it’s a bit of a taste of Vietnamese-influenced foods, but from where I live: Ohio, the Midwest, Chicago, California, and more. And that’s something we’re really excited about.

The Great American Recipe

Watch: The new eight-part competition series begins at 9pm on Friday, June 24 and runs through August 12 on PBS Television.

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