Family recipe stirs up Tampa chef BT Nguyen

5:38 PM, Oct 13, 2011   |    comments
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BT Nguyen (left) and her sister Xinn Le.

Tampa, Florida - In her busy Tampa kitchen, well-known chef BT Nguyen is always in control, her creations well balanced. "This is tuna, with fresh squeezed lime juice," she says presenting a plate.

But recently outside the kitchen, a new ingredient sent BT spinning. "I'm blown away!" she exclaims.

BT was blown away by her sister Xinn Le. Armed with only some phone numbers and not a word of English, she traveled from Vietnam to seek out BT. "It's like a mission for her," says BT.

For nearly 40 years, the two sisters lived separate lives. In 1975, with communist forces about to take control of South Vietnam, BT, just 13, escaped the country on a cargo ship and made her way to the United States.

She struggled with the language, but went to school here and carved out her culinary career.

However, the family BT left behind faced hardship. Through her sister, BT has now learned that for years, the government forced her family members to work under harsh conditions in a rubber plantation.

"She started telling me all the stories of what she went through and compared to what I went through, I feel like it's nothing... I'm so lucky," says BT near tears.

BT and Xinn filled their week together with walks and talks. BT laughs when Xinn gives her a big hug.

After being torn apart by war, this recipe for family tastes sweet. 

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