Dee Nguyen - Dining - Chef Profiles - Orange Coast Magazine

DINING | Chef profiles

Dee Nguyen

Break of Dawn chef’s home kitchen is filled with comforting things

1/1/2010

Guy 

Published January 2010

At Break of Dawn in Laguna Hills, chef Dee Nguyen soothes appetites with crème brûlée French toast and butternut squash soup. At home, the menu looks vastly different. “I eat a lot of fish,” he says. “I’ve been a meat-eater all my life and all of a sudden I’ve had to stop. My doctor said to slow it down a little bit.” Nguyen had been executive sous chef at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, but left there to open the breakfast-and-lunch eatery for one reason: to be with his family. After the last of the lunch bunch leaves his restaurant around 2:30 p.m., he closes up shop and heads home.

MEMORIES
“It’s not about how much you spend on certain things, it’s all about your first memories.” Nguyen’s first knife cost only $10 at the start of his career 10 years ago. “I have a lot of expensive knives, but I always end up using this one.”

RICE IS NICE
“I’m a rice person. I have to eat rice every day or else I feel empty. I have big sacks of Jasmine rice in my kitchen.”

LOW-TECH FOOD PROCESSOR
His prized possession? “Probably my Vietnamese mortar and pestle. I bought it from a place in central Vietnam called Monkey Mountain, which is known for marble and granite. I use it to make sauce, pound ginger and garlic. It’s probably over 20 years old.”

IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY
“A lot of cooking at home is done by my mother-in-law. She cooks very simple Vietnamese food, and it’s so darn tasty. When I get home from the restaurant, I’m burned out, and I just eat her food. One of my favorite dishes is her braised free-range chicken with steamed rice.”

THE ROOT OF ALL HEALING
“I like ginger because it’s medicinal—supergood for your body. It stimulates your digestive system. I eat raw ginger when I’m nauseated. Culinarywise, ginger gives you a little heat, just enough to taste it, but not enough to overpower a dish.”

24351 Avenida De La Carlota #N-6
Laguna Hills
949-587-9418
www.breakofdawnrestaurant.com

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