British Columbia

Vietnamese food goes intergenerational for Vancouver restaurant renewal

Five years ago, Vincent and Amelie Nguyen's father, the owner and operator of the Pho Hoang restaurant on Main Street in Vancouver, died. Now, his children are opening a new Vietnamese restaurant at the exact same location.

Main Street's Pho Huang restaurant will become Anh and Chi

Left to right: Amelie and Vincent Nguyen in their new restaurant, Anh and Chi, which is at the same location their father operated a pho restaurant for decades. (Lisa Christiansen/CBC)

Vincent and Amelie Nguyen are carrying on their father's culinary legacy.

Five years ago, their father, the owner and operator of the Pho Hoang restaurant on Main Street, died. Now, his children are opening a new Vietnamese restaurant at the exact same location.

"A part of the business died with him," Vincent told On The Coast's Lisa Christiansen. "Our mother did the best she could to resonate his energy and his passion at the restaurant, but it was hard. Slowly but surely there was a time coming: do we close the doors, or does someone step up to the plate?"

Amelie says she wants the new restaurant to bring something new to Vancouver's culinary scene, just as her parents did when they started serving pho in the city 33 years ago.

"As they ... introduced Vietnamese food and culture to the population back in the '80s, we felt we wanted to change this place to make it more relevant to the population," she said.

First restaurant established in 1983

Amelie says her parents ran the first specialty pho restaurant in Vancouver in 1983, three years after they first moved to Canada.

She says her father encouraged her mother to make noodles like they were made back home as a way to cope with their new surroundings, and as a potential business opportunity.

There was one problem though.

"They start cooking out of their home, on Fraser and Kingsway," she said. "They had a pop-up shop until some public health agency came and said, 'In Canada, you're not allowed to operate without a permit!'"

They had to close up shop, but had saved up enough to open a new — and legitimate — restaurant on Main Street in 1985, and they've been on Main ever since.

A table setting at Anh and Chi. The green lantern in the middle of the table is a throwback to the decor of Vincent and Amelie Nguyen's father's restaurant, Pho Hoang. (Lisa Christiansen/CBC)

Vincent says he and his sister both questioned whether or not they wanted to get into the family business. But in the end, he said he loves people and loves business, so picking up the family torch made sense.

"Not a lot of people are able to get this fulfillment and enjoyment and that simple smile on their face," he said. "That's immeasurable. That's what I do it all for."

Vincent and Amelie Nguyen's new restaurant, Anh and Chi, is opening at Main and 18th later in April.

With files from On The Coast and Lisa Christiansen


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Like father, like son and daughter: kids carry on father's culinary legacy

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story reported Vincent and Amelie Nguyen's parents came to Canada in 1983. In fact, they arrived in 1980.
    Apr 04, 2016 1:45 PM PT

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