Anh Nguyen on left. Photo Courtesy of the BG Daily News
By Admin, BuyLocalBG.com, BuyLocalBg@gmail.com/
Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 10:00 AM CST
We’re getting to know the Owners, Managers and Artisans of some of our great partners. Today we speak with Anh Nguyen, Owner of Manpuku Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar:
1. Tell us a little about you as a person. Where are you from, what are your hobbies and where did you start your career that led to working at Manpuku?
This is a long story about how we have Manpuku today. Cooking had already been in my blood which inherits from my grandmom and my dad. They were both excellent chefs. Back in the day when American troops were in South Vietnam, my grandmom was a Judge and with her younger brother, they owned a very successful restaurant business which was called the Haven on Earth for all celebrities and foreigners. Their foods were phenomenal and ridiculously delicious. My dad had worked at the restaurant since he was 5 year olds. But when the civil war happened, the restaurant was bombed and burnt down; the communist from the North came and took everything (communist hate wealthy people, they robbed the rich and made everyone poor like them). My grandmom and her brother lost everything and couldn’t be able to build another restaurant, they give up but my dad was still holding a dream to build another restaurant.
About myself I grew up from a poor and hardworking family in South Vietnam. Back in 1980s, my grandmom and parents have to work 2-3 jobs to put food on the table, but doesn’t matter what meals we have my grandmom and dad always made sure it look good and taste excellent. They always put love in their cooking. They worked very hard to put me and my brother in school and expecting us either become a successful business owner or excellent chef. When I graduated from Vietnam National University of Economics, I worked for a Japanese Trading Company and had many chances to travel and stay in Japan, and I started falling in love with Japanese Cuisine because they are similar to Vietnamese dishes but simple to make and less time to prepare. After that I moved to the US to study Accounting and Business Management at WKU. When I was in school I loved cooking, so I worked full time in several different restaurants in town to experience the food industry in hopes I can open a restaurant business with my dad when I graduate. Unfortunately, my dad passed away a few months before seeing me graduate. My plans were almost bankrupted but in memory of my beloved father, I spent over a year and a half working on my business plan and seeking a loan from the bank to start my own business. I had to knock the door of every single bank in town but no luck. And finally at the very last bank in town I work with they had approved my loan. With help of SBA loan and the bank, I required this property and built the restaurant from ground.
2. What is your earliest memory of enjoying cooking?
In my culture, many generations live in the same house, so I have a very strong connection with my grandmom and my dad as well as their cooking skills. Every meal in my family was prepared by the whole family. Each of us was in charge for part of cooking process. We are all laughs in the kitchen and making fun of each other. Those are most memorable moments of my life.
3. Manpuku has taken a twist on many dishes, what style of cuisine is your favorite?
My grandmom is Chinese, my dad was half Vietnamese, half Chinese, and I studied and worked with Japanese. So all my dishes are combination of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese, I guess.
4. Who are your influences in life and cooking?
My grandmom and my dad
5. If you had to choose a last meal, what would you eat?
It is funny but if I have to choose my last meal, it will be “pork belly burger” which is gourmet homemade fried pork belly with pickle red onion in between buns served with Vietnamese cole slaw. Honestly, it is my thinking outside of the box creation and it is very yummy and delicious. We are testing it now and it will be on our menu very soon.
6. How important are local ingredients to you?
Every single dish and sauce in the restaurant is made from scratch with fresh ingredients. I am very careful and kinda picky in choosing the best ingredients for my foods. It is important to me is the freshness and quality of ingredients I use at the restaurant. And I think local ingredients have it all.
7. What has been your favorite of Bowling Green’s local ingredients you have used?
The local Produce and fresh vegetables
8. What is your favorite menu item you serve at Manpuku?
It is hard to answer because every single item in my menu is my creation, which makes it my favorite. All of them were created with all my love and my soul. But people know about us is the freshness sushi and largest sushi selection in town We also have received many compliments such as best Udon and Donburi dishes in town (those are more authentic Japanese dishes)
9. What is your favorite local business in Bowling Green to shop? Coleman Bros farm and Greenhouses and some of the other vendors at Community Farmers Market next door to our restaurant.