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Thai Dang

Chef Thai Dang
Photo courtesy of Embeya

Restaurant: Embeya (Read a review)

Location: Chicago

Why He's Amazing: Because his superlative food melds Vietnamese flavors from his childhood with French and Chinese cooking techniques, resulting in stunning dishes like garlic chicken prepared Peking duck style.

Culinary School: L'Academie de Cuisine (Gaithersburg, MD)

Background: CityZen, Zentan (Washington, DC); L2O, Ria, Balsan (Chicago)

Quintessential Dish: Green papaya salad with culantro, crispy shallots and house-made beef jerky

On the Food at Embeya: "What I showcase on my menu is all of my travels through Japan and Thailand, as well as my family. We cook and we enjoy each other's company every weekend."

Nickname: Dang is the youngest of 10 children—seven boys and three girls. Embeya is the phonetic spelling of Em be, their nickname for him, which means "little one" in Vietnamese.

Role Model: Every Sunday, Dang's mother cooks a special meal for her family using industrial-size pots for pho (soup) and noodle dishes. "Picture a woman standing roughly 5-foot-1 climbing on a step stool with the longest ladle known to man, to cook, stewing and grilling for a group the size of an army."

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