My friend Tammy Nguyen Lee invited me to a speaking symposium unlike any I’ve attended before. Tammy’s organization called Against the Grain Productions (ATG) hosted the 5th Annual Groundbreakers Speak seminar, highlighting six Asian Americans excelling in various career fields. Each person shared a personal story that the audience could relate to. Here are a couple of their stories.
Joey Guila- Standup Comedian and Cancer Survivor
Joey Guila is a San Francisco native who beat cancer THREE times. The Filipino-American said comedy helped him to heal and has made it his mission to bring healing laughter to others through standup comedy.
His passion led him to win the regional “Kings of Comedy” competition, which landed him on some of the nation’s largest stages- the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and the Universal Amphitheater in Hollywood.
Guila has also done voice overs for major TV networks, promoted Asian American entertainment through the Verizon Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Tour, Headlined The Filipino Kingz Tour, and hosted a couple of TV shows featuring A-list guests like Justin Bieber and PitBull. Guila has been cancer-free now for 16 years and said he is living his dream.
Khai Vu- Executive Chef
“You can’t learn anything from being perfect.” That was my introduction to Khai Vu, a talented chef who came from humble beginnings. He and his family immigrated from Vietnam in 1993 and opened a successful pho restaurant in Las Vegas. After helping out for about two decades, he ventured out away from strict traditional cooking.
Lobster pho. Vu invited us to taste his culinary creations at his newish restaurant, District One. Fresh Raw Oysters covered and topped with a special sauce and garnish. Oxtail Fries. Yellowtail Fish Tacos. They were all incredibly delicious but also original. There was an air of familiarity about them, but there were also pops of flavor unlike anything we’ve tasted before. That is exactly what Vu traveled the world searching for- a unique twist to his home country cooking. Vu said he toured Japan and other countries looking for inspiration to bring something new to the table.
It appears as if Vu’s efforts are paying off His restaurant has raving reviews on multiple social media platforms, and his dining spot is packed until the wee hours. District One closes at 2am to accommodate those searching for a quality midnight snack. We dropped by on a Saturday night, well after dinner time, but it was still crowded. “Food brings everyone together in a good way,” Vu said. Looking around, I could tell that it did.