As Chef Tu David Phu sees it, the path to cooking his unique brand of Vietnamese-California cuisine has as much to do with his birthright as his birthplace. Phu is an Oakland, CA-born first generation Vietnamese-American chef whose family hails from the island of Phu Quoc, accredited as the birthplace of fish sauce in Asia.
Chef Tu’s family has been producing small-batch artisanal Phu Quoc Fish Sauce, considered Champagne of fish sauces, since 1895. Phu cut his culinary teeth in the kitchens of some of the nation’s top restaurants, including Daniel, Acquerello and Chez Panisse; and across a wide range of cooking cultures - from the American culinary greats to classical European traditions.
But it was what he calls “the memory of taste” that pulled him back to his roots: the practices, ingredients, techniques, and flavors of Vietnamese cuisines. Revisiting his favorite childhood dishes, Chef Tu began an in-depth exploration of the cuisine of his mother’s generations-old culinary repertoire. Pilgrimages back to Vietnam were frequent and inspirational.