Our FamilyMy family (the Nguyens) arrived in America from Vietnam during the fall of Saigon. We were sponsored by a Catholic family who brought my family of 7 home with them from Fort Chaffee to Mineral Springs, Arkansas. We arrived with nothing, since we were supposed to be on the first ship that departed, but it was captured and had to turn around. Good thing we were fashionably late and made it out of the country on the third boat!
When I was 23, I met Mr. Rasico at 1 a.m. in a late night bar in Little Rock. When I later told a single guy friend that I met my husband in a bar called Midtown Billiards, where you left smelling like fried bologna sandwiches, he said that gave him hope. The place was a total dive, once featured in Esquire magazine.
|Our dog Champ|
During my college years, I worked in a few restaurants. One of the first open kitchens arrived to town, and the fascination with cooking started to develop. When you work 2 weeks of doubles so you can visit your future husband in White Sands, New Mexico, there's not much time to cook at home.
So when I worked the expo, I learned about time management in what dishes needed to get started early in the rustic brick oven, or in the saute pan. It was up to me as servers dropped the tickets off to make sure that the line knew what we had in queue. I had a front row view of the executive chef calling out to the sous chefs as they tossed their pans with olive oil and garlic, mixed proteins & veggies with their tongs, and twirled pasta landings on the plate, ending with a garnish of basil or parsley. It's where I learned that cooking was all about time and temperature. And a lot of heart and soul.
At Forty Two, the restaurant inside the Clinton Presidential Center (Bill's library), I was once invited with a group of friends to hang out in the kitchen and taste the entire seasonal menu of the moment. The guys were really hustling to cook for us, as well as the rest of the restaurant out front. That day, something caught my eye on the wall. "Keep Calm and Finish Strong." I had so much respect for them. Later, I became good friends with the Executive Chef there. I loved being a part of the Little Rock food community.
Our Day Jobs
In 2014 in Arkansas, I worked as an Account Executive at one of Little Rock's top read publications, the Arkansas Times, a fast paced, weekly alternative paper that gave our audience up to date news, politics, and entertainment. We had a strong following of foodies and kept our readers well informed of food happenings in our weekly publication as well as other seasonal special publications.
In 2015, in Portland, Oregon, I worked in television and digital advertising sales. When my husband was promoted to the management team at his oil and energy company, his two weeks on two weeks off schedule in Alaska became six weeks on and one week off, so I decided to take some time to adjust to our new home at home with the kids.
I also worked in pharmaceutical sales for 6 years, where I had intensive and extensive training about good health. In my kitchen, I mainly use lean proteins and complex carbs, cooking with a conscience, especially from local, fresh, and organic sources as often as possible.
The pharmaceutical industry was one of the best things to ever happen to me. My bonus checks and contest winnings helped me stock my kitchen with Le Creuset stock pots, an entire All Clad set, Wusthof cutlery, and everything else a dream kitchen would have. I had the honor of standing up in several national sales meetings where I was announced as the number one rep in the country. My regional sales manager bragged about how much money I made him, which always made me laugh.
I loved Arkansas and everything that I accomplished there. But when my husband asked if I wanted to move to the Portland, Oregon area....