SeaSide Poke‘s Tai Nguyen has served as lead chef from the time when the operation was merely a pop-up. He has also worked at Fish & Knife, Soma Sushi and the award-winning Uchi. Nguyen’s Vietnamese upbringing has a huge influence throughout SeaSide‘s menu. “We really wanted to take the idea of poke further,” Nguyen says, “We‘re transparent about what we do, as far as how it’s farm-to-table and where we source our produce (and fish). We pride ourselves on sourcing from area farms and will pay homage to our farmers in the restaurant. We are also using seasonal ingredients that reflect our culinary philosophy.”
How’d you learn to cook?
I learned through growing up with my mom. I learned my professional cooking through working at restaurants around the Houston area.
What’s the first recipe you ever mastered?
The first recipe I mastered is a childhood dish my mom used to make – thit kho. In a professional setting, one of the first recipes I learned and eventually mastered is actually a demi glaze. What ingredient can you not live without in the kitchen and why? Fish sauce. I’m Vietnamese. It would be offensive if I didn’t have it. What utensil can you not live without? My knives. They are my world to me. Throughout my career I would work extra long hours and save up as much as I could just to get the knives that I wanted. I would be devastated if my knife bag were ever stolen. I’d rather someone steal my car than my knife bag because at least my car is insured.
Favorite affordable wine?
Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck.
Is there a food you won’t eat?
Not really. I’m always down to try new things.
What is your comfort food?
What do you see as the next food trend?
Southeast Asian food. Not that it’s not already a trend, but it hasn’t transformed like Japanese or Italian has in the past few decades. There is a bigger presence of Asian chefs on the rise who are really great at their craft and they are going to redefine the way we look at southeast Asian food.
At home, what do you keep on hand to serve drop-in guests?
Shin Ramen. Quick. Easy. Delicious. I’ll add an egg if I really like them.
Is there a particular food that is underappreciated?
Filipino food. I think it is really underappreciated. I’m not talking about adobo or jollibees. I’m talking about the good stuff that moms and titas be cooking at home. You have 10 bucks until payday.
What impressive meal could you make with it?
Red beans and rice – and that shit will last ALL WEEK.