Nearly two decades later and after distinctive paths, siblings Sophie
and Eric found themselves together again, this time in Seattle,
not Saigon. This time in their own kitchen, not their mother’s.
Their father is of Chinese descent, a culture, which dines out
frequently and they were educated with food, not only in diversity
but in quality as well. Their parents always believed quality and
freshness were the key ingredients to creating great food. As children
it wasn’t freshness that captivated Sophie and Eric so much
as American fantasy. They would beg their Aunt to make grilled steak
with french fries or something exotic like macaroni and cheese.
It was only once they left Vietnam that they remembered the comfort
food from their childhood, the fresh and clean flavors of Vietnam
which were now so hard to find in the West, the very flavors that
inspire Monsoon today.
Sophie’s love for food was apparent to everyone in the family.
She never missed an opportunity to learn a new dish. She once invited
an entire family over for a feast and in exchange asked for a curry
recipe. Despite her constant love for food she spent years working
in the banking industry and it wasn’t until Sophie moved to
Seattle that she pursued her culinary career seriously. In 1996
she graduated from South Central College in the Culinary Arts. Upon
graduating she worked at Obachine and Roy’s but always dreamed
of having her own restaurant.
Eric, on the other hand has never had any formal culinary training.
He graduated with a degree in business and later worked in real
estate. By 1995 he ventured to open his first restaurant, Lemongrass,
in Alberta, Canada. Unable to find a suitable chef, he decided to
take on the role himself, but admits he could not have done so without
a crash course in Vietnamese Food from his mother and aunt. It was
this lack of professional training that gave him the freedom to
experiment with ingredients and non-traditional combinations - to
learn simply by trying. As his exploration with food developed,
it was only natural that his curiosity and love for wine also matured.
Both Sophie and Eric admit their surprise at Monsoon’s success;
they never anticipated such positive reviews from local and national
critics including Bon Appetit’s 2002 Best Neighborhood Restaurants.
They credit Monsoon’s popularity to the locals of Seattle
who were quick to embrace modern Vietnamese food. The Northwest’s
abundance in ingredients, local and international, is a continual
source of inspiration for them. The selection, availability of wine
and the commitment of distributors have only encouraged Monsoon
to create an extensive wine list which has garnered the Wine Spectator
Award for the past three years.