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Meet the Tastemaker: Helen Nguyen of Saigon Social

Playful creativity as a chef doesn’t just show up in your food — it can also show up in your restaurant ambiance!

By Kim Pham

Garlic Black Pepper Saucy Noodles

Playful creativity as a chef doesn’t just show up in your food — it can also show up in your restaurant ambiance! 

After spending only a few minutes with Chef Helen Nguyen of NYC’s Saigon Social, you can pick up on her fierce, yet genuine spirit – her slightly frenetic energy belies a hustler who won’t settle for anything less than what she set out to do + refuses to take no for an answer. 
Raised in Seattle with roots in California + Vietnam, Helen had an illustrious career in real estate business + sales spanning a decade before pursuing her passion in food. After making the decision to swap careers, she packed up and moved to NYC to attend the Institute of Culinary Education.

She’s not a stranger to owning her multitudes - Chef Helen is a formally-trained chef who has worked in some of the best, most high-caliber kitchens in NYC. Despite that, her ego is rarely in the room – instead, she embraces her childlike wonder and creativity through her debut restaurant, Saigon Social in NYC’s Lower East Side – mostly through displaying her love for Star Wars!

“Star Wars is both an escape and relief – and I see Saigon Social as that too, with our modern take on Vietnamese food.” -Helen Nguyen

Her restaurant boasts a mural with a super-sized Ewok holding carrots, Baby Yoda + Boba Fett figurines, and little Easter eggs strewn all over.

Despite having her head in a galaxy far, far away, Chef Helen has her heart in her modern Vietnamese flavors. That love shows up in our collab – Omsom’s Garlic Black Pepper Saucy Noodles. 

An homage to a Vietnamese-American invention – garlic butter noodles – these bouncy, knife-shaved noodles are rich, savory + umami-forward with the sultriest amount of spice. Having a playful space is a non-negotiable for Helen, and these noodles are a continued reflection of that ~saucy~ creativity.

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