Most Interesting People 2012: Bac Nguyen

Bac Nguyen

Chef and owner of Bac, 29

/ Why he's interesting / Nguyen has no formal culinary training, but growing up in his grandmother's and mother's restaurants made this Case Western Reserve University psychology graduate and former electronic DJ a natural in the kitchen at his Tremont restaurant Bac. "I think I was just meant to entertain people. Whether that be feeding them, playing music or doing weird robot dance moves."

/ Naming Bac / A friend suggested Nguyen use his first name when, he says, he struggled to find a name that didn't sound like Chinese takeout. "It actually means 'north' in Vietnamese. I was born in North Vietnam."

/ "Wow, I'm Asian" / "I never really grew up proud of being Asian. At some point I realized I was very unique and blessed being from this culture. I always joke that I realized one day I was actually Asian." Nguyen says his restaurant is a result of coming to terms with his identity.

/ Vietnamese values / Food has always been important in Nguyen's big family (his grandmother had 16 kids). "When we get together, we're making food for 80, 90 people. It's serious stuff. I feel like I could cook in my sleep."

/ Favorite dishes to cook / Southern fried chicken, chicken marsala and pho

/ DJ days / He put away his turntables to focus on Bac, but Nguyen has made a handful of beats and even wrote lyrics to and recorded a song. "It was called 'You Wish You Were My Man,' " he says with a laugh. "It was super ghetto. You'll never find it."

/ Creative minds / Nguyen benefited from artistic genes. His parents were artists in Vietnam, his mom an opera singer and dad a ballet dancer. "To me music and art and food, they're all sort of just different things within the general realm of self-expression."

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