It all started when I was just a kid, working for my parents' Vietnamese noodle house in the Cabramatta suburb of Sydney. It was extremely hard work, but I learned to love the hospitality industry, and in particular cooking.
Growing up, my folks taught me the fundamentals of Vietnamese cuisine, how to achieve a balance of flavor. How to get all the sweet, sour, salty, bitter & spicy elements to all work in great harmony together. I became very passionate about the freshness of produce, how to choose and source the best ingredients and learn all the medicinal qualities of each herb, vegetable, fruit, root and spice that I would use in my cooking.
This is why I fell in love with Vietnamese cuisine, it not only tastes good, looks good, it is also very good for you. A cuisine that is very light and healthy. I found this unique cuisine to be what I want to share with the world.
So at 23 years of age, I decided to open my own Vietnamese restaurant in Surry Hills, Sydney, called Red Lantern. Set in a heritage listed terrace house, which seated only 40 guests. It is a restaurant where you would come not only for a dining experience, but for a cultural experience as well.
For me, food is culture. Hence, through my restaurants, cookbooks and my cooking and travel television programs, I am very passionate to share the food and culture of Vietnam.
Which has led me to set up GRAIN, a cooking studio in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City to show both local and international guests the best of Vietnamese cookery. I want to share what I have learned from my family, my extensive travels through Vietnam, and from my many years of cooking at my Red Lantern restaurants.
Vietnam being ruled by China for a thousand years and colonized by France for almost a hundred years has made Vietnamese cuisine, the most refined Asian cuisine in the world.
I am very excited to welcome guests to GRAIN, to learn, cook and taste my delicious Vietnamese dishes, and share the charming culture of this wonderful country.
Bien Nguyen started full time in the industry as a dish washer at 15 years old; months later he found himself cooking and learning a craft that would consume him. As his passion for the industry grew, so did his curiousity to experience other areas of the restaurant and he found himself in the front lines as a waiter. While Bien was building his tools in the industry, he would work front of house and in the kitchen for years.
A few restaurants & bars later, Bien was appointed restaurant manager for the first time at 21 years old. At 22 he opened his first cafe, followed by a restaurant a year later in Australia. In 2004, Bien returned to Vietnam with a vision to create a restaurant that would bring together all of the essential elements for a complete yet dynamic dining experience, showcasing the flavors of Vietnam, and to be part of the Vietnamese culinary evolution. To extend his passion for Vietnamese cuisine, Bien, along with Luke, have decided to open a Grain Cooking Studio, which now teaches how to re-create the traditional meals at home.