Chef and owner Thoa Nguyen was born in Saigon and raised in Cho Lon, the city's Chinatown district. In April 1975, when she was 11 years old, Thoa and her family left Vietnam for America. They spent time at a refugee camp in Pennsylvania, before finally settling in Denver. There, with both parents working two jobs, it was up to Thoa—the oldest daughter of five siblings—to cook for the family. Happily, it came naturally to Thoa, who found creativity in the daily task of figuring out "what to do with a chicken tonight." Food being such an essential focus in the family influenced Thoa to follow her interest of the culinary arts. She worked in restaurants during high school and college, but after graduation became a graphic designer for six years. Feeling that her goals were not being fufilled and realizing how much she missed food and people, she opted for a change. She moved to Washington State and quickly fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. In 1996, Thoa introduced Seattle to the original Chinoise Cafe on Queen Anne. It quickly became a success and three more locations followed. In 2003, she opened The Islander, which departed from the pan-Asian cuisine/sushi of Chinoise to offer upscale "island" cuisine from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. Again, it was a hit. In 2007, Thoa made her first trip back to Vietnam. While there, she realized the time was right. She could no longer wait to share her personal interpretations of contemporary and classic Vietnamese dishes with Seattle diners.
She welcomes you to Thoa's!