On the Line: Nathaniel Nguyen and Amy Pham of the Prince & Pantry, Part Two

Our kickass duo of Nguyen and Pham continue the dialogue by recounting their time in the spotlight and the impact family has made on their lives. To learn more about the Prince & Pantry, you can follow this link to their website.

Read our interview with Nathaniel and Amy of the Prince & Pantry, part one.
And now, on to part two . . .

Let's discuss both of your experiences of being on television.
I had tried auditioning for The Taste, but they ended up “going in a different direction.” But the same casting company was casting for Cutthroat Kitchen at the time, so I thought I'd try my luck with another show. I found out I was going to be on the show three weeks before I was scheduled to film, so it crept up on me fast.

The whole experience was surreal and not what I expected it to be. The highlight of my career and life. . . . But now that I have a better understanding of how things work, I'm ready for that redemption round.

NATHANIEL NGUYEN: It was a very eye-opening experience. Being around so many people that were passionate about cooking really pushed me to get into starting the Prince & Pantry. I was waiting tables at the time, and it really inspired me to make the jump.

I also learned that not everything is what it seems. Being on the other side of things, and then seeing how it all pans out on television [Editor's Note: He's referring to his appearance on The Taste] is an experience in and of itself. It's like watching a whole new show sometimes.


Hardest lesson you've learned:
That you can't do anything alone. Without my amazing team of sous chefs, bartenders, servers, mentors, etc., there wouldn't be the Prince & Pantry.

Last book read; how was it?
I'm finishing The $100 Start-up by Chris Guillebeau right now. I love it. I love reading about other successful start-ups and companies. It reminds me of why I made the jump to start my own business in the first place–and gives me new ideas to consider for myself.

Where did you grow up? If you're not from Orange County, what brought you here?
I grew up in Loveland, Colorado. It's a little town just north of Denver, and it's exactly what the name illustrates it being. My sister and I were basically the only Asian-Americans at our schools from K-12. Great place to grow up, though. . . . I miss the small-town feel sometimes. Sometimes.

My sister moved to the OC three years before I did. I would visit a few times a year, and it easily became like a second home to me. I was eager for some change and excitement in my life, so I packed up and left Colorado on my 25th birthday to live with my sister and brother-in-law in Santa Ana. I probably wouldn't be here if my sister hadn't had the guts to move out here first.

When you're not in the kitchen, what are you doing?
I have to keep my hands busy. I really love crafting and art. I hand-made all of the artwork in my home. One of our clients is constantly putting on exhibitions featuring contemporary abstract art from Latin American countries, specifically from the Sayago and Pardon collections. I've learned a great deal about art through that collection and have taken it upon myself to continue my education about various types of artwork and artists they work with.

Last song playing on your radio:
I usually have the dance/club station playing on Pandora. I need the high-energy music to keep me moving along during the day.

What's your favorite childhood memory?
One of my favorite childhood memories was grocery shopping with my family. My father was very passionate about procuring the very best ingredients for his dishes. We would often drive for hours to various places to pick up ingredients, like seafood markets in Oakland where he would bring home fresh frogs for my grandma's famous butter-fried frog legs, free-range chicken farms for his amazing chicken pho, the side of some random trail for honeysuckle to make his herbal teas. I used to think my dad was crazy, but now I'm doing the same thing!

How did you two meet?
Nathaniel and I worked together at Katsuya in Laguna Beach. I was a line cook, and he was a server. He'd always steal spicy mayo off my station to eat with his rice. [Winks.]

NGUYEN: We immediately got along because of our love of heckling. I've worked in restaurants where the kitchen can be so serious sometimes, and Amy definitely is a fine balance of both. I always have such a great laugh when we're rubbing elbows in the kitchen.

What were you up to five years ago?
Five years ago, I was waiting tables and going to school at Chapman, thinking that maybe a career in law or consulting was in my future. Funny how much can change in five years.

What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
If I weren't in this business, I'd probably still be doing something for which I can get my hands dirty and wear comfortable shoes. I feel like I was built for hard labor, so I'm useless when it comes to sitting still or wearing heels for prolonged periods of time.

NGUYEN: Furniture. If I weren't a chef, I would probably be a furniture designer.

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