A recent participant in Tastemakers of OC, Bao Anh Ton's family oversees a trio of establishments within close proximity of each other: Quan Hy, Quan Hop and Hoa Nguyen. Since I knew so little about him, I took the opportunity to take him through the motions of On the Line.
How did you get into the restaurant business?
My mother started our restaurant business using her skill and artistry for creating superior quality Central Vietnamese dishes.
I know it's not only Quan Hy that you're associated with. What are the other restaurants?
Quan Hop is our cafe where we feature primarily pho, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. But we also serve favorite appetizers and dishes from our Quan Hy menu; the best of both worlds. Hoa Nguyen is our newest venture where we serve Vietnamese cuisine with a contemporary vegetarian interpretation. This was an exciting project for us that helped us grow as a business and connect more closely with a broader customer base.
Most undervalued ingredient.
Tell me about a recent food find.
Homemade Japanese food, preferably served family-style.
How do you describe Central Vietnamese cuisine to someone new?
Central Vietnamese cuisine is full of rich flavors, added spices and carefully prepared to preserve its unique flavor combinations.
Where was your most recent meal?
Hoa Nguyen's vegetarian curry dish.
Best culinary tip for the home cook.
Be careful not to overcook rice noodles. This softens the noodle texture and changes the consistency of the dish.
Favorite place to eat.
Kasen (authentic traditional Japanese restaurant), which is tentatively scheduled to reopen in the near future. Really looking forward to that.
Favorite meal growing up:
My mother's braised mackerel and simple soup served with steamed rice.
Last thing you looked up online:
The last thing I looked up online was a Vespa.
I'm supposed to ask about your "Vespa Coffee Gang".
Riding Vespas and vintage BMW motorcycles is one of my hobbies. They're a great way to move around the neighborhood, go for coffee or drive locally for lunch.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
Coffee and hot cereal with fruit.
Tell me about the watches.
My interest in watches comes from an appreciation for how they function; the efficiency in the mechanics of how they function. I like vintage watches because they have history, such as old Rolexes or Patek Philippe's.
What other profession would you like to try if you weren't in this business?
Photography. It was another "calling" of mine. I still get to use it in our restaurant marketing, and I'm happy with that.
Where did you grow up, and where do you currently call home?
I grew up in Saigon and came to the U.S. in 1989. Currently live in Fountain Valley and call Orange County home since I've lived in some of the other surrounding communities (like Huntington Beach) as well.
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What's your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory is enjoying my mother's home cooked meals while growing up. She's always prepared food impeccably, and was so generous with her time, making great effort to prepare incredible family meals for us when we were kids. She inspires me to generously share with others the way she shared with all of us.
I want to know about your children.
My two sons are terrific; both great boys. They each enjoy their own interests, but love being with family, too.
Hardest lesson you've learned.
I've learned many hard lessons, but the hardest one is that anything worth achieving doesn't come without hard work and sacrifice. Working together with my family has helped pave the road, though, and made this journey more worthwhile.
Quan Hy is at 9727 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, (714) 775-7179