FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Chef Tony Pham recently moved to Fairfield from Danbury but when you walk into Mecha Noodle Bar, which has locations in Fairfield and Norwalk, it's easy to forget you're in Fairfield County. Instead, you feel like you've been transported across the Pacific Ocean.
His innovative pho and ramen dishes -- the eatery's motto is "slurping encouraged" -- have made him a 2016 "Most Innovative Chef" pick from the Greenwich Wine + Food Festival occurring Sept. 23 to 24.
Daily Voice sat down with Chef Pham ahead of the festival to get the scoop on where he gets his inspiration, what he's thinking pre-event and what creates the Mecha Bar brand.
FYI: Pham also co-owns Pho Vietnam in Danbury with his mother, giving Fairfield County residents plenty of options for trying his food.
Daily Voice: What does being named a "2016 Innovative Chef" mean to you?
Tony Pham : Innovation means evolution, so it’s pretty freaking cool considering it’s the first time for an Asian restaurant to be in the Greenwich Food + Wine Festival. This means Asian cuisine is evolving and I think it was long overdue in Connecticut. What we are doing at Mecha is very special because it bridges many cultures to Connecticut.
DV: What kind of dish will you prepare at Greenwich Wine + Food?
TP: So I’m trying to get Anthony Bourdain to try my pho and actually consider it for his international market. There’s a slim chance he’ll even see this, let alone respond. In the small chance that he does, I’m cooking a Northern style pho for the Greenwichites. That’s my plan B. My plan A is to stick with something comforting but unfamiliar. I want to do a light crab noodle soup called Bún Riêu Cua.
DV: Do you have a favorite ingredient and if so, what is it?
TP: Everybody knows about fish sauce and it is well documented. But my secret, and most utilized, ingredient is oyster sauce. Wok Mei makes a great natural oyster sauce. I use oyster and fish sauce to make my fried rice rather than the misconceived soy sauce.
DV: Where do you get your cooking inspiration?
TP: Inspiration comes from what I eat in my everyday life now as well as from my childhood. We were fortunate enough to have a family that circled around great Vietnamese food for dinner and all social events. So we grew accustomed to eating a wide range of ingredients and how to really appreciate the whole animal down to the marrow. Being able to merge these Asian and American experiences together is what creates the Mecha Noodle Bar brand.
DV: What might people be surprised to know about your restaurant?
TP: Beyond food, there are three things people should really know about us: My role has switched in recent years to that of running a great company committed to our management/staff, the beverage program, and our community through philanthropy.
You hear horror stories of the restaurant work environment, but not us. We have a great group of people that we genuinely care about so work-life balance is a priority. From benefits to one on one time, we continue to try to do the right thing.
Our beverage program is second to none. As much as we push to bridge Asian food and culture to Connecticut, we push even harder with the bar. The program is lead by Jason Snapkoski and Jonathan Rodriguez but we have guys like Javelle and Christian who care so much. Currently we are exploring frozen cocktails inspired from New Orleans.
Lastly, check out www.eatjustice.org/ .
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