The An Family identified and followed certain things are associated
with successful restaurants. They are as follows:
- Successful and hot restaurants are headed by personalities
who became celebrities such as Wolfgang Puck at Spago, Piero
Selvaggio at Valentino, Michael Chow at Mr. Chow.
- People eat where their friends eat. They want to see and
be seen, activities that have nothing to do with the food
or their plates. Great food was the least most important
element in having success.
- When a restaurant has multiple investors that means that
the multiple owners will come to dine at the restaurant
while bringing their many friends.
My grandfather had taught
me that people do business with you if you're a friend.
I decided that if I wanted to have friends, I would be a friend.
I would become a friend to the community."
meant connecting with different cliques through their charities.
An contributed money, offered to give fundraising dinners
at Crustacean and donated gift certificates to silent and
live auctions for nonprofit groups. She also gave her time—and
now serves on the boards of the Artists' Rights Foundation,
the Asian-American Film Institute Associates and the Young
Musicians Foundation. She's a member of Les Dames de Champagne
and the Blue Ribbon Committee and is involved with the Thalians
of Cedars-Sinai Hospital and the Motion Picture Fund.
The family started learning the necessary skills of running
successful restaurants with Diana’s
husband (Elizabeth’s grandfather
& Helene’s father) who enjoyed a life entertaining
between 20 to 300 people every night. As a result, the skills
were identified while Diana was learning
how to manage a number of large homes and orchestrating the
entertaining her husband's
many businesses required.
and Helene incorporated their past family’s
experiences in entertaining dignitaries
from all around the world with opulent dinners prepared by
the family's three chefs, one
Vietnamese, one Chinese and the third French in the development
of their restaurants that entertained in a style that was
spectacular in its elegance and simplicity.
was in order to keep the honor of our tradition
that was so important to our culture and to keep the respect
of `What a wonderful wife and daughter-in-law this man has!'"
LEGACY AND CREATIONS
Helene takes extraordinary pride in
her culinary creations because
it represents far more than just good food - they represent
her legacy. She's leaving her
children an inheritance of culture, but what they will do
with it is all up to them.
of the unique ways that Helene protects
her legacy is through her kitchen,
an entirely separate area in the restaurant that only she
and a select few have access to.
kitchen allows Helene
to prepare her special dishes in total privacy, without fear
of her treasured recipes leaking
out to other restaurants.
The eldest of five daughters holds a B.S. in Electrical
Engineering from the University of California at Davis and
an M.B.A. from Golden Gate University. She and her husband,
Danny Vu, oversee the restaurants' business planning and corporate
structure. Hannah put together the business plan for the first
Crustacean, negotiated the lease and a bank loan.
She is the creative director and head of marketing
and public relations – along with being the designer
of Prana – a place that brings a touch of French colonial
Vietnam through their Euro-Asian
cuisine in a feng shui atmosphere to Las Vegas. She fashioned
Crustacean based on her recollections of her grandparents'
lavish country estate in Kien An that brings the spirit of
French colonial Vietnam – along with other mansions,
vacation villas and plantations her family owned where servants
met every need.
met the challenge and risks of spending
$2.5 million (sizable portion of the profits from their two
San Francisco restaurants) to open Crustacean in 1997. She
wanted to package her mother's food
in a chic atmosphere that would attract a fashionable crowd."
Recognizing that charities
were the social engine that drives much of Beverly Hills’
commerce, she became a philanthropic
presence in the city.
She does the accounting and is in charge of food
Her family (Tran Family) ruled over Tuyen Quang province in
north Vietnam for centuries, was introduced
to the world of haute cuisine long before she became a restaurateur
in the United States. Her father,
the vice-consul to the king, often hosted large banquets for
visiting dignitaries and international guests. These events
were catered with their three cooks -- Vietnamese, French
and Chinese respectively, each specializing in his native
cuisine. As the result, she learned
to plan exquisite menus for
discerning guests prepared her for a career in the restaurant
The An Tradition of having the strength to accept things the
way they were and build from there, despite their respective
men’s inability to get over their loss of power and
status, has been in place for two generations – Diana
(Grandmother), who defied convention and her
husband by independently planting roots in America and
Helene (Mother) who showed
her five daughters that adversity was no match for their bloodline.
They had to overcome their respective husbands/men who became
despondent over their loss of power and status resulting in
their non-interest in working in the service industry.
are part of a larger Vietnamese female tradition
where the aristocratic Truong sisters defended their country
against Chinese invaders, the beloved woman warrior Lady Trieu
and Kieu - Vietnam's most famous exile and literary heroine.
Their restaurants have been featured in Esquire Magazine,
People Magazine, Wall Street Journal, InStyle Magazine, Bon
Appetit, Gourmet, Food & Wine as well as on CNN, NBC,
CBS, ABC and the Oprah Show. The Ans are considered the pioneers
of Asian fusion cooking. They are the proprietors of the oldest
Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco offering signature
Euro-Asian cuisine. Crustacean
is also one of the first Asian restaurants to break into the
mainstream. In 1999, the Ans received the Jacqueline Kennedy
Women of Achievement Award.
The Secret Kitchen is a fascinating element of Helene
An's culinary legacy and
the An Family success story. The Secret Kitchen is a completely
enclosed kitchen within the
main kitchen, off limits to all employees except An Family
members. Here, Chef Helene and the Ans
prepare their secret family recipes:
An's Famous Roasted Crab and Garlic Noodles. These dishes
are the key to the restaurants' success.
stated “I prefer tastes that are simple, clean, and
refined. How food feels on my palate is very important to
me. It can't be heavy, sticky, or overpowering, and definitely
not fatty or oily. Complex flavors and textures must always
be balanced with freshness and lightness. Most importantly,
food must not only taste good, but also be good for you.”
philosophy of cooking is based
on the healthy principles of Eastern medicine and the healing
properties of herbs, spices, and roots. The balance between
the taste factor and its healthy principle is what I call
my culinary philosophy of "The Yin & Yang of Cooking.
This philosophy is reflected in all my dishes, and naturally,
in all of my sauces.”
An Family seek to share the beauty and wonder of Vietnam,
past and future while passionately working to insure that
their country's vast and rich culture and artistic traditions
are not lost.