Chef, Restaurateur, Writer, Cookbook Author
Mai Pham is the chef and owner of the nationally acclaimed Lemon Grass Restaurant in Sacramento, California, an award-winning cookbook author, and a respected expert on Southeast Asian cuisine. She was born in Vietnam but was raised in Thailand, and it is the cuisines of these two countries that are the foundation for the spirit and passion that inspire her culinary leadership.
Following her family's traumatic departure from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975, Mai Pham sought out the opportunities that America offered. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in journalism (completed in 3 years), went on to become a TV reporter for ABC News, worked in public relations, and then was a speech writer for the governor of California. While the media was her chosen profession at that time, her subconscious connection to food, both as the center of family and universe, led her down a different path.
In the late 1980's she opened the Lemon Grass Restaurant, vowing to share the best of Vietnamese and Thai foods with the people of Sacramento. Mai Pham had shifted her focus to preparing the authentic dishes of her childhood, allowing her to express herself in new ways while connecting with her heritage. It was while expressing herself through her cooking that she realized she could also express herself through her writing, thereby utilizing her education and talents as a writer and journalist. She has since written articles for national publications such as Fine Cooking magazine, is a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times, and is also a food columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Her first book, The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking: Favorite Recipes from Lemon Grass Restaurant and Cafe, published in 1996 (Prima Publishing), is complete with advice and instructions on how to prepare extraordinary Southeast Asian cuisine at home. Her second book, Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table (Harper Collins, 2001) is filled with stories and pictures that paint a compelling and irresistible portrait of the enduring culture and cuisine of Vietnam.
Although Mai Pham wasn't professionally trained as a chef, she actively learned through observing and doing, with her family history and ethnicity providing the inspiration. Winning numerous culinary awards, she started the first Southeast Asian cirriculum at the Culinary Institute of America, subsequently receiving an honorary Master's degree for her commitment to cooking education. She believes that once people develop an interest in foods of a particular country, an interest in the culture will soon follow, reinforcing the importance of preserving traditional cuisines. Her restaurant, stories, books, classes, and culinary tours bring life to the foods and culture of her beloved Southeast Asian heritage, for all of us to enjoy.
- Mai Pham - chef and owner of Lemon Grass Restaurant in Sacramento, California
- Received an honorary Master's degree for her commitment to cooking education
- Writes articles for Fine Cooking magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle