Whereas Nguyen has "a whole knife bag with 16, 17 different knives," his mom "uses only one knife, a cleaver," for every job. Whether she's peeling garlic, mincing or butchering a chicken, "her knife skills are on another level," says Nguyen, proudly. She's also not one to rely on recipes, a fact that speaks to her natural cooking ability. "Absolutely not," says Nguyen. "She doesn't write down recipes. There's no rolodex, nothing. It's all by memory. For her to be able to feed us, like four kids, and always keep it fresh and interesting, her repertoire is unbelievable. … No wonder she can't write it down. She'd spend a lifetime trying to write it all down."
In true mom fashion, Nguyen adds that "mom never cooks with measuring cups and a part of that kills me the most. She never measures anything." To this day, Nguyen is watching and learning, seeing how his mom adjusts the balance of recipes based on how things taste. "For example," he says, "to make the pickles with a recipe, they'd never be balanced. Sometimes the carrots are sweeter, or the vinegar is stronger. My mom is able to adjust every time. …A lot of those skills — cooking with passion, using your senses — you can't teach those. My mom is a legendary cook."
A bit of a rebellious teen, Nguyen remembers his parents' patience and dedication to always providing for the family. He's now entered "pay-back season for the rest of my life," he jokes. Adding that "everything I do, everything I strive for… it's to better my mom's life and make sure that her work eases up and she's well taken care of," he says.
"As the days go, the bond me and my mom have grows tremendously," says Nguyen. "I wish I had gotten to this place with my mom a little sooner but we're definitely making up for lost time."