Thai Nguyen is the co-owner and co-chef of Ba Sa, a modern Vietnamese restaurant on Bainbridge Island that has Seattle residents ferrying over every chance they can. (Read about our recent visit to the incredible restaurant–and all about Chef’s famous taro egg rolls–here.) Learn about Thai Nguyen…
Hometown: Silverdale, WA
First job: Dishwasher
Favorite ways to spend your free time in WA: I love outdoor activities, like mountain biking, snowboarding and paintball with co-workers and friends, my other family. I find these activities help me de-stress because I focus so much on the trail and lose sight of everything else. Practicing what I do daily in the kitchen in a different form of art.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: Discovering my love of cooking. I ran away from it initially, having grown up in our family restaurant. I moved to New York by myself, enrolled in a culinary program, came home and then we opened our first restaurant. Ba Sa is a place where I get to exercise my creativity every day through my cooking. I love finding interesting ways to use what is available to us. My intention is to live out my dreams by being purposeful every day.
The biggest obstacle you overcame: Balancing work and life is something I am still working on and slowly figuring out. Restaurant hours can be very demanding, and it’s easy to disconnect and zone out. I try and stay present.
Someone who inspires you and why: As a chef, I find inspiration in a lot of things, but the person I always circle back to is my mom. She’s the reason I choose this path. I watched her work super hard in the kitchen to provide for our family growing up. I want to take over that role for our family.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: BE A SPONGE. Absorb, accept, acknowledge. Absorb every little detail that you can from anyone who is willing to teach you. Accept criticism. Acknowledge when you are wrong and be open to new ideas.
Favorite quote: “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” I live by this quote and always go back to it. I believe that if you keep grinding away and stay focused on your goals that opportunities will present themselves. No matter what you choose to do in life, you will always succeed if you don’t give up.
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I’m a bigtime sneaker head. People are always surprised that I have a passion besides cooking. I’ve been a sneaker head since high school. I love how every shoe has a story, and the story makes that shoe that much better.
What makes someone fabulous: Being optimistic and finding the positive in every situation. Keeping your head up when everyone is down – that’s something I always admire and strive to do.