Veteran Chefs Keeping It Fresh: Doug Nguyen of Wasabi in Nyack and Wasabi Grill in New City

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Doug Nguyen

Restaurant: Wasabi (Nyack) and Wasabi Grill (New City)

Born: Jan. 15, 1970, South Saigon, Vietnam

Grew up: Stony Point (since 1983; raised by a foster family after leaving Vietnam)

Culinary school: BOCES for one year

Experience: Started as a dishwasher at Maiko, in New City (the current site of Wasabi Grill). Worked at Kiko House in Pearl River, U-Me Sushi in Nanuet; was chef and co-owner at Sakana, in Nanuet, which won a Journal News readers’ poll for best sushi in Rockland. Opened Wasabi in 2003.

Cooking style or philosophy: Mix and match. The chef is more like a fashion designer. Some people like that dress, some people don’t. You’re making the sushi, some people like it, some people don’t like it. Everybody has their own style. My style, I work with a lot of fruit, that’s more of my signature.

Why we chose him: Nguyen is a one-man melting pot. He grew up in Vietnam, was raised by an Italian-American family in Stony Point and worked his way up the ladder in Japanese restaurants — and all of those influences show up in his cooking. He loves a good sausage and meatball hero, but understands the delicate nature and beauty of Japanese cuisine. He also understands that Americans want to have fun when they go out to dinner, and he makes dining fun.

How he keeps it fresh: Enjoying what I’m doing, that keeps me going.

Advice for the chefs: They’re good, they’re young, they’re moving faster than me. The restaurant world is very hard work. You’ve got to be young and have energy.

Linda Lombroso contributed. Photo by Carucha L. Meuse/TJN.

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About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

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