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Most Baffling NYC Chef of the Aughts Michael Bao Resurfaces in Saigon With Tacos

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He is still really ridiculous

Michael 'Bao' Huynh
Michael 'Bao' Huynh, from when he was on “Iron Chef Vietnam”
Michael 'Bao' Huynh, courtesy photo

Perpetual restaurant opener and one of the most incomprehensible New York City chefs of the post-recession 2000s Michael Bao Huynh has apparently made good on his promise to open a restaurant in Vietnam and now has a taco stand in Ho Chi Minh City. Although many of his NYC restaurants (both opened and never-opened) had “Bao” puns in the names, his newest spot is called MexiTacos.

Online magazine Taste has an interview with Bao, and as it turns out, the absolutely ridiculous chef is still pretty much out of control.

Bao opened about a dozen restaurants between 2008 and when he left New York in 2013, ranging from an Asian burrito shop called Baoritto to a sandwich restaurant called Baoguette. But he talked about opening more than 30 — including head-scratchers like a fried chicken restaurant with a Playboy Bunny.

Upon leaving NYC for Vietnam, he promised that he would be opening at least five restaurants in Saigon. Four years later, it looks like he only has MexiTacos. Writer Calvin Godfrey calls it “fantastic.”

The chef says he won’t be returning to New York to open restaurants any time soon, but he spoke about how “everybody wants a piece of me,” how he still misses New York, and how he functioned as a restaurateur in New York. The highlights:

On how he was able to open so many restaurants in New York:

Nobody else could be the designer, the builder, the cook, and the real estate broker. I’d find a restaurant that had everything in place. My friend would come in as the broker and demand three months’ commission that all went to me. So I’d open the place for one dollar. I opened nine restaurants in one year. I said I’d do ten but could only do nine.

How restaurants are like women:

[The] restaurant business is a gamble. We’ll open ten restaurants. If five hit, we’ll make it. In this business, it’s all about how many wives you’ve got, how many girlfriends you’ve got. Well, having two restaurants is like having two girlfriends, you know? You’ve got three girlfriends, you’ve got a problem.

...

Taste: But what single restaurant would you open here with a million dollars?

Well, you could do a lot here in Vietnam with a million dollars. But I’d do a few things. I’d open one chef’s-table restaurant where I could go at night and meet with people. I couldn’t control two high-end restaurants, so the rest would be simple concepts. I’d probably open three simple concepts. One wife, three sons. Wife: difficult. Kids: easy. Two wives are a big problem because they’ll call and ask, “Where are you? Where are you?” Restaurants are the same.

He’s still thinking about opening that Brooklyn diner in Vietnam that he’s been talking about since 2010:

Oh, man, give the Vietnamese a Reuben sandwich and it will knock them out. Take beef and barley soup — people here love it! Thirty years ago they gave barley to poor people, so nobody wanted it. But now I tell them: “Try it; it’s delicious!” Oh, and New England clam chowder! Replace the potatoes with taro and the cream with coconut milk. It’s a knockout! I love Brooklyn. I wanna name my daughter Brooklyn.

Just as in the past, it is probably best to take all his promises and claims with a whopping portion of salt. Read the full, crazy interview here.

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