PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — KOIN 6 News recently sat down with chef Vince Nguyen, a James Beard Award semifinalist and owner of Berlu Bakery about reconnecting with his Vietnamese culture.

“I just got back from Vietnam. I’ve been before, I was probably in my mid-twenties, definitely explored and was a chef at the time, was definitely into the food, but didn’t have the same appreciation for the cultures. So that was an amazing trip, but to go back, and be able to go back with my wife, really plan around eating and understanding the culture a lot more, was amazing,” he said.

Nguyen says Portland has been a great community for him over the last 12 years.

“I’ve never really been a part of a community before, really, you know? Growing up, I didn’t embrace my Vietnamese heritage, so it wasn’t that community. Growing up in the restaurants, I was working fine dining restaurants and there’s a lack of community there, it’s so competitive. Even within the restaurant, people are trying to move up. So it wasn’t until here, I became part of the Vietnamese community, became part of the gluten-free community and you know now I’m proud to be able to say I’m a big part of the restaurant community,” he said.

Through his restaurant space and the dishes he prepares, Nguyen’s goal with Berlu is to offer a piece of himself.

“What I really want for guests to get out of it is a better understanding of me and through that, I hope they find a better appreciation, also find enjoyment and be able to share that – I think that’s the ultimate goal,” he said. “The goal when we opened was definitely to offer a tasting menu and to reach my fullest potential, which was going to be expressed through a tasting menu, but also make it a Portland restaurant. So certain elements of fun, being creative, maybe a little quirky has helped it become approachable and accepted in Portland.”

While he’s happy with what he has been able to create, Nguyen has plans for other projects in the future.

“We definitely have plans in the future. I’m very ambitious and I’m very lucky to have surrounded myself with like-minded people that support me. So there are definitely plans in the future but I’m not really one to like to talk about the process. Once we’re a couple weeks out, we’ll let you know,” he said.

James Beard finalists will be named at the end of March. The winners will be announced in June.