Interview with Vu Ly, August 1, 2022

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Interview with Vu Ly, August 1, 2022


Asian Americans







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Betsy Brody


Vu Ly

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5.4 Interview with Vu Ly, August 1, 2022 2021oh002_di_018 00:50:32 ohdi Digging In di001 How Food, Culture, and Class Shaped Asian Dallas Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans This project is possible thanks to the support of a Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship. Asian Americans Texas--History Facebook Vu Ly Betsy Brody mp3 oh-dig-audio_Vu_Ly_20220801.mp3 1:|14(4)|32(3)|48(15)|65(7)|83(2)|101(4)|118(1)|131(2)|144(7)|160(1)|174(3)|189(13)|205(8)|223(5)|232(11)|247(1)|257(7)|274(1)|287(13)|307(3)|326(5)|344(8)|363(13)|382(9)|401(11)|412(12)|432(9)|448(14)|463(2)|476(5)|487(9)|499(15)|515(6)|528(11)|547(9)|562(10)|573(10)|591(5)|606(12)|625(3)|654(3)|674(4)|685(16)|705(12)|721(10)|734(8)|759(7)|770(10)|786(13)|803(8) 0 Aviary audio 0 Introduction 30 Moving to Dallas from Colorado 101 Working in the hospitality industry and opening a coffee shop/speakeasy coffee ; speakeasy 32.74826751821143, -97.36062171164528 17 257 Origin story and growth of Asian Grub in DFDub Facebook group Asian food ; Asian Grub in DFDub ; Asian hate ; Asian restaurants ; COVID ; Facebook ; food festival ; pandemic ; racism ; restaurants ; social media ; xenophobia 678 Coming up with the name Asian Grub in DFDub Asian Grub in DFDub ; COVID ; Facebook ; pandemic ; social media 879 Xenophobia and Anti-Asian rhetoric anti-Asian ; Asian Grub in DFDub ; Asian hate ; Facebook ; racism ; social media ; violence ; xenophobia 1089 Division of labor among Asian Grub in DFDub Facebook group Asian Grub in DFDub ; Facebook ; social media 1420 Possibilities of monetization of Asian Grub in DFDub/Attention from the media Asian Grub in DFDub ; food festival ; food media ; KERA ; media ; social media 1580 Dallas Asian food scene today Asian community ; Asian food ; Asian Grub in DFDub ; boba ; Cambodian ; cooking ; culture ; food ; fried chicken ; Lao ; mom and pop ; restaurants ; sushi ; Thai ; Vietnamesel 1874 Thoughts about &quot ; authenticity&quot ; and Asian food Asian flavors ; Asian restaurant ; authentic ; authenticity ; cooking ; culture ; food ; mom and pop ; restaurant 2001 Role of social media and food media blog ; bloggers ; culture ; Dallas ; Facebook ; food ; food media ; food photographers ; influencers ; photography ; social media 2148 Food and culture authentic ; authenticity ; culture ; food 2229 Asain Grub in DFDub Food Festivals Asian food ; Bishop Arts ; culture ; Dallas ; entertainment ; food ; food festival 2518 Maintaining the spirit of Asian Grub in DFDub Asian Grub in DFDub 2662 Contrasting Asian Grub in DFDub with Yelp and traditional food media Asian Grub in DFDub ; Asian restaurant ; food media ; restaurant reviews ; restaurants ; social media ; Yelp 2889 Reflections about the experience of creating Asian Grub in DFDub Asian community ; Asian Grub in DFDub ; Asian hate ; community ; COVID ; Dallas ; Facebook ; food ; inflation ; racism ; restaurant ; xenophobia “Digging In” explores how the growth of the Asian community coincided with the rise of “foodie culture” in Dallas, leading to unique opportunities for economic and social engagement between and among different Asian immigrant groups as well as with the larger Dallas community. |00:00:07| BRODY This is Betsy Brody. Today is August 1, 2022. I am interviewing for the first time Mr. Vu Ly. This interview is taking place in my home office in Richardson, Texas. This interview is possible thanks to the support of a Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship and as part of the project entitled &quot ; Digging In: How Food, Culture and Class Shaped the Story of Asian Dallas.&quot ; Thank you so much for joining me. |00:00:33| LY Thank you for having me. |00:00:34| BRODY Let&#039 ; s start out. Just tell me where and when were you born? |00:00:38| LY I was actually born in Thornton, Colorado, but I&#039 ; ve moved back and forth from here and Denver area like two or three times. And then the final move was freshman year, after my freshman year in high school because my dad got a job transfer. And then that was the final move. That was like almost 25 plus years ago. I think so. But my mom, all her sisters and mother lives around in Dallas and all. So as I&#039 ; ve been back and forth, just those two. |00:01:09| BRODY Oh, the family that was in Dallas. What brought them to Dallas then? |00:01:14| LY Honestly, I never asked my parents that because it&#039 ; s weird with Asian culture, it&#039 ; s hard to talk about things. I mean, I can ask, but I don&#039 ; t know and I never ask. I just know majority of because my mom has seven sisters. So and they all decided since grandma and grandpa decided to come to Dallas and then they all resided here. I got- and then some moved to like Oklahoma and whatnot, but we&#039 ; re still in the surrounding states. So then I&#039 ; ve been here ever since. |00:01:45| BRODY Big family Yeah. So what do you do? |00:01:47| LY Me? I work for a wine and liquor distributor called Republic National Distributing Company, and I&#039 ; m on the wine division, so I handle accounts like 7-Eleven, QuikTrip, Walgreens, CVS, Valero&#039 ; s. I just write orders and I try to pick some new items that we need to sell. And then I also have a coffee shop in Fort Worth called &quot ; Ampersand.&quot ; It&#039 ; s coffee and tea. It&#039 ; s really great. And one of them is a speakeasy, it&#039 ; s secret club in the back. So people can drink coffee during the day and drink liquor at night if they want. |00:02:18| BRODY Tell me about the secret aspect of the speakeasy. |00:02:20| LY You walk in. It&#039 ; s a small coffee shop in the front and then there&#039 ; s just the big wall. Looks like a wall. And you just push it, and you walk in and it&#039 ; s just a big bar and there&#039 ; s like a DJ booth and tables and everywhere. So and people, we actually open it now for people during the day to study. So it&#039 ; s, it&#039 ; s, it goes both ways. So we&#039 ; re a club and coffee shop. |00:02:44| BRODY That&#039 ; s really interesting. Is there a secret word? |00:02:46| LY No, we don&#039 ; t. We just have it closed. And then when the, when people come, they just we have someone open the door for them. |00:02:52| BRODY So that&#039 ; s really fun. So you&#039 ; re in your real job and in there you&#039 ; re owning the coffee shop in the food industry. Is that something that you&#039 ; d always planned on? |00:03:05| LY No, it&#039 ; s not, actually. When I was in college studying, it&#039 ; s going to be a, I was going into anesthesiology. And then I went into dentistry. But then throughout college I was also throwing events and whatnot. So I was like, I don&#039 ; t want to study anymore. And then I became like more entrepreneurial. So then I just took everything from there and just started like helping like friends with businesses, and I opened my own businesses and whatnot. So the end game for sure is to just open more businesses and whatnot. Just be your own boss. |00:03:42| BRODY So right. Were you drawn in particular to the hospitality sector? |00:03:47| LY Yeah. And then just having your own idea and just be able to put it out there for others and see how people respond to it or whatnot. And then support goes a long way too. So I&#039 ; ve got a lot of my friends out there and family that would support. They come out of support no matter what. So I like that part. Just being your own person, doing your own thing without having to answer to anybody. |00:04:13| BRODY Fewer gatekeepers. |00:04:14| LY Yeah. |00:04:15| BRODY So we&#039 ; re talking today because you are one of the administrators for a large Facebook group called Asian Grub in DFDub. Can you tell me a little bit about the origin story of that Facebook group? |00:04:29| LY Yeah. So basically, it started when COVID started and then all the xenophobia towards Southeast Asians and whatnot and it was hurting businesses throughout the country. Then we noticed it in Texas and whatnot. So it was when like when friends used to get it, when we used to get on FaceTime happy hour since we couldn&#039 ; t see each other in person. So then we just started talking. It&#039 ; s myself and four other women that I went to college with. So that&#039 ; s Kimberly, Elaine, Nancy, and Tran. So we&#039 ; re just talking like how businesses were being affected because a couple of them were also business owners as well. They have boba shops and whatnot. So like we had to figure out a way how to help other restaurants and ourselves and whatnot. And then they&#039 ; re like, why don&#039 ; t...One of them suggested, &quot ; Let&#039 ; s just start a Facebook group and invite our friends. And then, you know, it&#039 ; s it&#039 ; ll be a one platform where everyone can come and promote their businesses and then tell other people about foods they find.&quot ; So that&#039 ; s really all it stemmed from. And we just started adding friends and then they added their friends and then just came built in. And now we have it&#039 ; s been almost three years, so we have over 50,000 members now. |00:05:48| BRODY That&#039 ; s incredible. |00:05:49| LY Yeah. |00:05:49| BRODY It&#039 ; s so I mean, you were just talking, and we remember, you know, all of us at that point early in the pandemic, just, you know, there was no sense of how long it was going to go on. Like what were you kind of envisioning in terms of the scope and the scale? |00:06:08| LY Honestly, we really didn&#039 ; t think it would become this big. It was just something for us to have for other people to help, you know, other Southeast Asian businesses and whatnot. So it&#039 ; s gotten bigger than we thought. And hopefully we can make it even bigger because we obviously did our first food festival in May, which was really good. So we would like to continue doing more food festivals, which helps highlight more restaurants and it can bring in more revenue for them too and whatnot. |00:06:41| BRODY So that&#039 ; s amazing. So just overall, what were the initial goals and mission of the page? |00:06:50| LY It was bringing awareness to others that don&#039 ; t know about certain restaurants that it&#039 ; s okay to go support these businesses. Despite what&#039 ; s happening in the news and you&#039 ; re hearing all the xenophobia, you can go to an Asian restaurant, you&#039 ; re not going to catch COVID and whatnot. So I mean, you catch COVID anywhere. So just because it&#039 ; s an Asian place, it&#039 ; s not going to, you&#039 ; re not going to catch it. But it&#039 ; s also I thought I knew all the restaurants. And then because of this page, there&#039 ; s all these &quot ; hole in the wall&quot ; ones that I&#039 ; ve never heard of. Plus, it helps the older generation that&#039 ; s not, doesn&#039 ; t know social media. So this helps people know about their stuff because they don&#039 ; t know how to promote it themselves. So that&#039 ; s helped a lot of places just because of that. |00:07:39| BRODY So people were just posting about restaurants that they went to, that they liked and then it grew fast, right? So how did you manage that growth? How...were there challenges to that? |00:07:56| LY Oh, tons of challenges. So at first, we had it where if you post something, it automatically goes through. And then we kept seeing repeated posts because we like to keep the group organized and also positive. So we don&#039 ; t want people to treat it like Yelp where like if they had a bad experience, they want to post about it. I mean, there&#039 ; s many more they can do that on their own page or other platforms for that. We don&#039 ; t want it for this group. So because basically your bad experience can be someone else&#039 ; s good experience. And I was I&#039 ; ve learned, and I always tell people that just because you like something doesn&#039 ; t mean I have to like it. It&#039 ; s good to me, but it doesn&#039 ; t have to be good to you. But like people are like, &quot ; Oh, I did not like it. Blahblahblah.&quot ; Why did you post this? Food makes people crazy, but it&#039 ; s subjective. You know, you like what you like. So I mean, we just oh...I like. And then now we turn on...We have to approve posts now of course, but then we, I&#039 ; ll get messages on the side like why? Because they want, we wanted this for just Southeast Asian but then they&#039 ; re trying to other people wanted to promote like Indian and Pakistani places which I get it, because says Asian Grub, but because of the xenophobia on it, we focus solely on Southeast Asian and then they have their own groups too, which has a big following too. So I just try to tell them, I mean, some understand and then some doesn&#039 ; t. It is what it is, but we like to keep it as just all positive and organized in that group. |00:09:29| BRODY So yes, some of the press about the page, you know, highlights the organization aspect of it, particularly the map. Can you tell me more about the map aspect? |00:09:40| LY Oh, yeah. The maps are just another tool for members to use. Just go to the Google Maps and we categorized everything. So from Thai food, Korean, and it has all the places. So you can just search it and then it&#039 ; ll show you on a map where to go, info, address, and everything. It&#039 ; s just another organized...Because the group is really kind of hard to use, like when you&#039 ; re searching for something because, so say you&#039 ; re searching &quot ; Thai food.&quot ; Every word, every post has the word &quot ; Thai&quot ; in it, it&#039 ; s going to pull up. It&#039 ; s hard, like even just random. Like, even if it&#039 ; s just the first two letters, like &quot ; the&quot ; in &quot ; Thai,&quot ; it&#039 ; s going to pull up. It&#039 ; s just like, I don&#039 ; t know why they haven&#039 ; t, like, made that easier, but I do get it because there are a lot of repeated posts. Because then...So we do decline a lot of posts and we tag them in past posts just so it won&#039 ; t be flooded with repeated, but at times where we can&#039 ; t tag them, which we&#039 ; ll let it go through. But that map is basically just for everyone to see. Get to find the place they want easier instead of using the search. |00:10:43| BRODY Right. Do you think had you known how big it was going to get, that Facebook would have been the platform that was ideal? |00:10:53| LY I honestly, yes, because everyone uses Facebook. Because we all started using Facebook when we were in college, and it was mainly for college students. Then they open up to everybody. Like even my uncles and aunts in Vietnam have Facebook now too. So, to me, it&#039 ; s Facebook is the perfect and biggest platform for everybody to use because I think majority of people have Facebook. |00:11:18| BRODY Tell me about the conversation with your fellow founders about the name. How did you come up with the name? |00:11:27| LY They. So one of the ladies thought of it. They&#039 ; re just coming up with names just during while we&#039 ; re on FaceTime because Houston also has one called &quot ; Chow Down in Chinatown.&quot ; So one is something that, you know, flows off the tongue. And then sounds like it goes together. So honestly, it&#039 ; s one of them. I think it was Tran she just &quot ; Asian Grub&quot ; and then I think Elaine was like &quot ; Well, we&#039 ; re in DFW, DFDub.&quot ; So it just, it just came together organically. |00:12:01| BRODY So that&#039 ; s really fun. It&#039 ; s a great name. So it grew really fast. And what were the reactions initially from the public and from the restaurant owners. |00:12:14| LY From just members themselves? I always I hear a lot &quot ; I&#039 ; ll go to your page a lot just to see what&#039 ; s new or if I&#039 ; m hungry.&quot ; Or people were just on the page just scrolling, even if they&#039 ; re not hungry. So for future times they want to go out and eat and they just want to see. And then from restaurants, I&#039 ; ve got messages that we&#039 ; ve helped them a lot, like from closing and whatnot, and they&#039 ; ll offer us stuff. But I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; You don&#039 ; t have to offer anything as long as you&#039 ; re staying open, your good.&quot ; And I&#039 ; m really glad it&#039 ; s helped a lot of restaurants from closing. So yeah. |00:12:53| BRODY Do you have any specific stories that you were able to share? |00:12:58| LY There is a there&#039 ; s this restaurant called Sprouts in Mansfield. He messaged one of us in thanking us about the group and whatnot. And he said when COVID was happening, he was on the brink of closing. But because of that group, he was able to stay open. He&#039 ; s all, &quot ; Y&#039 ; all can eat here for free, for life.&quot ; I was like, &quot ; Don&#039 ; t worry about it. You can give that someone else if you want,&quot ; but, yeah. It&#039 ; s, they&#039 ; re all kind of like that where they&#039 ; ve been on the brink of closing, or they thought about that. And then just one post just helps save the restaurant. |00:13:34| BRODY So because what is the reaction? So somebody posts and then I mean, what have you heard? |00:13:39| LY So this is what I try to tell restaurant owners when they post their own stuff, not to share from their own page. So a post, if a post is more personal, like organically from you and it&#039 ; s not just shared, people react to it more and like they&#039 ; ll go to more. Obviously, pictures help, but you got to put a caption or something and people will be drawn to it, especially if you&#039 ; re mentioning that you need help or whatever, the response is very good. Like there&#039 ; s one. Someone posted a TikTok of a sushi restaurant in downtown Dallas and they were about to close too. So they posted in the group. I think they got like over 500 likes and a bunch of comments. And then a few days later I heard it was like line out the door or hard to get a table. So it&#039 ; s just the response has been very good for the post that has been made. |00:14:39| BRODY That&#039 ; s really nice. The time period when you were starting the group and I suppose the reason you were having those conversations at all was because of the, as you said, the xenophobia. Can you talk a little bit more about sort of setting the scene? Like what were the things that people were saying? What were you, what were you reacting to that was out there in the world? |00:15:03| LY Yeah. It&#039 ; s just because I have a lot of friends that are restaurant owners, too. So I know they told me what they&#039 ; ve gone through. Just, it&#039 ; s more like not what people say, but what they&#039 ; re not doing. So obviously, just the xenophobia. They don&#039 ; t want to support these Asian restaurants. I mean, what they hear in the news, they&#039 ; re going to believe, and it doesn&#039 ; t help that like the former president was like saying &quot ; China virus&quot ; and all that or whatnot. And then so and then a lot of political leaders, they don&#039 ; t...They hear it, but they don&#039 ; t listen, and they don&#039 ; t sit down to think about how to help. So they&#039 ; re like, they&#039 ; ll say something that would make them look good, but they don&#039 ; t there&#039 ; s no action towards it. I don&#039 ; t even think that bill, that the Asian hate crime bill, did anything. It&#039 ; s just the bill they made. So but I mean the xenophobia towards Asians. I mean, it&#039 ; s been happening even before COVID. It&#039 ; s just there&#039 ; s more social media now. So it&#039 ; s more everyone can see what&#039 ; s going on. I&#039 ; ve seen so many videos that like way more than I have in my entire life within like, two years. It&#039 ; s crazy. And it&#039 ; s still going on. But they&#039 ; re, like, attacking elderly, you know, women like, just randomly. Just like walking down the street, just punches someone out of nowhere. And then sometimes they get caught, sometimes they don&#039 ; t. So, I mean, in my life, I haven&#039 ; t really dealt with anything like too bad. Like, so I know one time I was at one of my accounts. I was looking at the food, and one of the workers was like, &quot ; What are you looking for?&quot ; I was like &quot ; Something to eat.&quot ; And then she&#039 ; s all, &quot ; We don&#039 ; t have dog.&quot ; It caught me off guard. So I didn&#039 ; t know how to respond because it caught me off guard. So I just. said no, I&#039 ; m just whatever. But I think if I processed it sooner, I would have said something. But I just. I like I want people to, like, stand up for themselves, too, because, you know, a lot of Asian people are soft spoken. We were taught that way, too, like, so it&#039 ; s hard. But the younger generation, they&#039 ; ll...They&#039 ; re more bold and they&#039 ; ll say something which is good. |00:17:22| BRODY And with social media, you know, and like the Facebook group itself, do you feel like that&#039 ; s a way for people to stand up for themselves? |00:17:31| LY Yeah, it&#039 ; s for, it&#039 ; s a way for their voice to be heard. Because anything put on social media, Internet, someone&#039 ; s going to find it and it could go viral. And all it takes is one reshare and another share not to share. It&#039 ; s easier for us to get our voice out than trying even like doing a protest in downtown. I mean, I don&#039 ; t know how much that really helps. I mean, people will see it, but I don&#039 ; t know. Because I know they&#039 ; ve done like protests in like New York and marches in Cali and whatnot. Here we haven&#039 ; t really done anything. But social media to me is the best way, I think. |00:18:10| BRODY Kind of switching gears for a second from that topic, just nuts and bolts of the organization. It&#039 ; s gotten so big. And, you know, it started with just a small handful of you as administrators or, you know, founders. How do you make it work? |00:18:27| LY So we designate each admin is has their own like job. But, well, that&#039 ; s how it started. But all of them are all moms. I&#039 ; m the only one without, like, kids or anything. So I can I kind of have more free time to look at the group more. And then Kimberly, she has some downtime too when the kids are doing something else. So her and I are monitoring it like 24/7 and the others, they&#039 ; ll... We&#039 ; ll just when we have, like when we have a, like a question, like should we post this or whatnot or what do you think of it? We have a little group chat, so we try to talk about should we do it or whatnot. And if we do, what would happen? Blah blah blah. So that&#039 ; s basically the organization of it right now. |00:19:14| BRODY So it sounds like a lot. So earlier you mentioned you really like to keep the group organized and positive. |00:19:23| LY Yeah. |00:19:24| BRODY So, you know, every group online has to have a set of rules and things like that. What have been the evolution of the rules for this group? |00:19:33| LY So we don&#039 ; t allow...We want people to be respectful to each other within the group too because we can&#039 ; t read every comment on the posts. There&#039 ; s just a lot. So people do report stuff and that&#039 ; s the only time we really see. There&#039 ; s people that do go at each other in the comments. |00:19:49| BRODY Really. Over things like what? |00:19:51| BRODY It&#039 ; s over, like...or just be like someone posted, come here, blah blah and, and someone&#039 ; s going to post or someone&#039 ; s going to comment, &quot ; This place sucks.&quot ; And then someone else would be like, &quot ; It might so to you, but blah blah blah.&quot ; And then just people go at it. And then there&#039 ; s like arguments over like dang, what was it? I think it&#039 ; s just the type of food. Like, it&#039 ; s just crazy in the comments, but we&#039 ; ll try to monitor it, remove it, and then we put people like on suspension too. |00:20:30| BRODY Oh wow. |00:20:30| LY And then we kick some people out of the group too. So, and then we also have like 7000 pending because you have to answer all the questions in order to come into the group. So there&#039 ; s a lot of people that don&#039 ; t answer because there&#039 ; s a lot of like fake pages too that try to enter. |00:20:45| BRODY So what are you trying to vet by asking the questions? |00:20:49| LY So like there&#039 ; s three questions. One was, do you live in DFW? How often do you visit if you don&#039 ; t? And then do you own a business? So if those...Answering those questions basically takes away like the bots and the fake pages. So. Plus it makes...If you actually read the rules, if you answer the questions. |00:21:11| BRODY So not a robot. |00:21:12| LY Yeah. |00:21:14| BRODY What have been some of the biggest challenges or surprises of running this group. |00:21:18| LY Challenges is just trying to, like, keep it the...Like, if I let one post in and I don&#039 ; t let another one in. I have to be, I have to try to make it fair with everyone. Because someone&#039 ; s going to be like, &quot ; Why did you allow this post in? But not this one.&quot ; But there&#039 ; s also like, I can&#039 ; t remember every post that goes through. So sometimes...We don&#039 ; t like to have repeated post, especially if it&#039 ; s an event and there&#039 ; s multiple restaurants doing it. So one restaurant&#039 ; s going to try to promote it. And so we try to like space it out. So we don&#039 ; t want it cluttered. But then I&#039 ; ll get messages on the site like, &quot ; Why haven&#039 ; t you approve this yet?&quot ; And then sometimes we&#039 ; ve accidentally approved posts like, like say an Indian restaurant and then someone&#039 ; s gonna be like, &quot ; Oh, why was mine?&quot ; This. I was like, &quot ; I&#039 ; m sorry. It&#039 ; s just so many.&quot ; Like, sometimes I&#039 ; m just approving. I don&#039 ; t... Sometimes I don&#039 ; t even read because there&#039 ; s so much. But there&#039 ; s probably, like, towards the end, like, something like, negative is like, goes from positive and negative. Like, it&#039 ; s like, &quot ; I really like this, but the service sucked,&quot ; or something like, you know, I mean, I get you need good service, but I don&#039 ; t want to, and we don&#039 ; t want it in this group. So with that kind of like comments and stuff. |00:22:38| BRODY So how many hours do you think you spend a week? |00:22:41| LY Ooh. I would say a week? |00:22:44| BRODY Yeah. |00:22:47| LY Man, it probably feels like a part time job, honestly, because even like during...So for work, I drive through, I go to every account of mine and then when I&#039 ; m like walking into the door, I&#039 ; ll be checking it and approving because we get posts like every I say like almost five, five to ten minutes, everyone&#039 ; s posting. And especially if someone&#039 ; s asking for something. Sometimes I see like three hours later when they&#039 ; re asking about where to go for lunch in this area. But I didn&#039 ; t see it in time. I was too busy with work now and even that late at night before I go to bed, I&#039 ; m checking it. It&#039 ; s a free part time job. |00:23:26| BRODY Right. And it&#039 ; s a service. But that people are expecting some service from you immediately. |00:23:33| LY Exactly. Yeah, because I always get, &quot ; Why haven&#039 ; t you, I need you to approve this right away.&quot ; |00:23:40| BRODY Have you all ever talked about finding a way to make it more of a real, like, paying job? |00:23:46| LY Yeah, we do want to monetize it. Like at the food festivals for sure. Like this, the first one we did just because it was for AAPI month and then it&#039 ; s just because it was the first one. We didn&#039 ; t charge any admission. We didn&#039 ; t even charge any of the vendors either. So it&#039 ; s all free, everything. So but we had sponsors too that helped us out, which was really great. But yeah, soon for sure, the food festivals. And then we have a website as well and we want to open that up to other cities outside of Texas, so they can use that as a hub to sell. |00:24:25| BRODY Follow the model. |00:24:25| LY Yeah. |00:24:26| BRODY No, that&#039 ; s really interesting and I hope, I wish you well with that. So because you&#039 ; ve learned a lot about the, you know, what works and what doesn&#039 ; t work and what some of the challenges are. What have been some of the surprises that you&#039 ; ve experienced? |00:24:42| LY The amount of attention we got, especially from the media, because we&#039 ; ve had new stations contact us for interviews like, KERA was one. She came to the food festival actually and interviewed us and then Channel 5 News. Texas Today. And it&#039 ; s just basically the exposure. But it&#039 ; s a lot of people outside of Texas that heard of us so people from New York. Cali, they&#039 ; ve joined the group, too. So it&#039 ; s nationwide exposure. That was a big surprise. |00:25:15| BRODY So yeah, that is that&#039 ; s really a far reach and a lot of media attention as well. Why do you think it drew such media attention? |00:25:26| LY It&#039 ; s a good question. I think just is they saw how well the group was helping other restaurants. And then I, I think they cause a lot it helped during a lot of these news stations were reaching out to restaurants too because the xenophobia and whatnot, or just in general small businesses hurting during COVID. So then they would mention our group too. So it&#039 ; s just the mention of a mention and that&#039 ; s how to me that&#039 ; s I think how it got to where it is. |00:25:59| BRODY And it&#039 ; s also a good story of community building. |00:26:02| LY Yeah. |00:26:02| BRODY Right. During a time that was very difficult to form communities. |00:26:06| LY Oh, yeah. Like, yeah. No, it&#039 ; s shocking or not shocking, but it&#039 ; s great to see that so many people are coming to support everybody. Like, so that&#039 ; s one of the greatest things about the group. |00:26:19| BRODY The positivity. So I want to ask you a few questions about the Dallas Asian food scene in general. How would you describe, you know, the Asian food scene in Dallas today? |00:26:32| LY To me, it&#039 ; s gotten better and better each time. It&#039 ; s...I mean, it mainly used to be just like Vietnamese food with sushi and whatnot. But now people are getting more exposed to Thai food, Laos food for sure. That&#039 ; s one of the, that&#039 ; s one of the cuisines that doesn&#039 ; t get a lot of like exposure because not a lot of people know about it. Because I didn&#039 ; t start eating Laos food till, I got to college because I met Lao friends and I was like, &quot ; That&#039 ; s really good.&quot ; So and then just all different types of cultures like Cambodian food now too. So now we have a whole range of everything. It&#039 ; s still a lot of Vietnamese food, but now we&#039 ; re getting like stuff that people aren&#039 ; t exposed to normally. So it&#039 ; s growing and it it&#039 ; s going to keep growing. Right. |00:27:25| BRODY Yeah. So I was going to ask you, what do you see as the future of Asian food in Dallas? |00:27:30| LY I see. I see there&#039 ; s going to be a...I see a lot of fusion stuff and I just see more Asian food branching out to other cities that don&#039 ; t have a lot of like, let&#039 ; s just say Rockwall or whatever. And just the ones further out, because I&#039 ; ve been seeing businesses open up there, which is really random because there&#039 ; s not that big Asian community, but it&#039 ; s working for them. So as our city expands out more into the smaller cities and whatnot, that&#039 ; s...I see the food growing out that way, too. |00:28:07| BRODY Interesting. Earlier you mentioned the phrase &quot ; hole in the wall.&quot ; And I know a lot of you know the press about the group talked about its attention to, quote, mom and pop restaurants. So I wanted to ask you about, sort of, within this Dallas Asian food landscape that your group focuses on and that you&#039 ; re part of- what is the range of type of, you know, small business mom and pop to, you know, fine dining high end? |00:28:40| LY Yeah. So for fine dining, there&#039 ; s really not that much fine dining for Asian. There&#039 ; s only maybe a good handful, but everything else is either family, within the family or whatnot. So there&#039 ; s restaurants and like Arlington, they&#039 ; re older than both of us. Like they&#039 ; ve been there forever, which is crazy. So we love the &quot ; mom and pop&quot ; ones because to me, the &quot ; mom and pop&quot ; ones, they&#039 ; re they really are truly just focused on the food and nothing else because they don&#039 ; t know social media and whatnot and the aesthetics and whatnot. They just make good food. So that&#039 ; s why a lot of people love a &quot ; hole in the wall,&quot ; &quot ; mom and pop&quot ; ones. It&#039 ; s just more authentic and it&#039 ; s good. But like all the other ones, all the friends that open up business, they, it&#039 ; s like a new idea and whatnot. So like, for example, Okaeri Cafe, it&#039 ; s like a little Japanese cafe. Michelle&#039 ; s the owner, so she&#039 ; s- her and her partner- they visited Japan and they just basically brought the and then they put in a new their own concept, their own spin on and whatnot. So and then there&#039 ; s Ricky&#039 ; s Hot Chicken. He&#039 ; s been working on his- you had it. He&#039 ; s been working on his recipe for like I think about two years. And he let friends try it and whatnot. And then he finally opened up. He has, he opened up a second location in Arlington. So it&#039 ; s like a lot of people just putting their own spin on things that they think. |00:30:08| BRODY So what about the contrast between sort of the &quot ; mom and pop&quot ; and the types of places you&#039 ; re describing and then the Asian based franchises? Places, you know, like Boba places or things like that that are franchises? |00:30:25| LY So the Boba places, there&#039 ; s basically almost, almost a boba place on every corner, almost. It&#039 ; s not like Houston. Houston- it&#039 ; s like so many like two feet from each other. But yeah, the majority of all the places there are franchise and then there&#039 ; s a few that are their own. But there all, all the franchises are different people too. They&#039 ; re not all one person. But and then the just trying to think of like how to...To me, like I said, just, it&#039 ; s not like the franchises aren&#039 ; t better, but obviously, like I said the &quot ; mom and pops,&quot ; they&#039 ; re just more focused on the food. That&#039 ; s the only way I can really answer that. The compare and contrast. |00:31:15| BRODY Yeah. I mean, it&#039 ; s an issue that comes up in almost every conversation that I have about Asian food with different perspectives on that question of authenticity. You&#039 ; re describing the &quot ; mom and pops&quot ; as being, in your view, sort of focused on the food and perhaps more authentic in your view. What does the concept of authenticity mean to you? |00:31:41| LY Basically, it&#039 ; ll take you to that country and it feels like you&#039 ; re in Vietnam when you&#039 ; re eating it because it tastes just like it or whatnot. To me, that&#039 ; s what authenticity means. It&#039 ; s just they&#039 ; ll take you to that place. So and then you can tell through the food how hard they worked on that recipe or whatnot through all the flavors. |00:32:06| BRODY Interesting. A lot of this during this time also, you know, restaurants that aren&#039 ; t specifically Asian, you know, have learned from, or borrowed the, some of the flavor profiles of Asian food. What do you think about that? |00:32:23| LY I don&#039 ; t mind it because there because there are say, quote-unquote non-Asians that they&#039 ; ve been to Vietnam, and they studied it. And then there&#039 ; s other places that will...that will try to put out like a pho dish, but it&#039 ; s not pho. Like it&#039 ; s not true to what it&#039 ; s supposed to be. I get you&#039 ; re trying to put your own spin on it, but you can still put your own spin on it. But it still has to be true to what it is. And then there&#039 ; s sometimes where they won&#039 ; t even spell it right, like banh mi. Supposed to be- they spelled that wrong. And then it was a whole thing like and then people were trying to correct him, but he wouldn&#039 ; t, the chef wouldn&#039 ; t listen, or the owner wouldn&#039 ; t listen. But there&#039 ; s nothing wrong with other people trying to, like, mimic or, you know, put it out there. You just got to be respectful and respectful to it to make sure it has just the same ingredients and whatnot, you know? |00:33:15| BRODY Right. Yeah. It&#039 ; s a tricky area, too, now. So we&#039 ; ve been talking about Asian Grub in DFDub you and its impact on this area and restaurants in this area and how much it&#039 ; s helped. What about your just general views about the role of social media when it comes to food in general? |00:33:43| LY Yeah. So obviously there&#039 ; s food photographers out there. There&#039 ; s, I know a couple and they do great pictures and people eat first with their eyes. That&#039 ; s why you always see at the restaurant, there&#039 ; s people right when the meal comes out and before everyone eats, their cameras are out. They just want to show people what they&#039 ; re eating. And it&#039 ; s...It just gives a platform. Without...It&#039 ; s something to let people know without actually saying something. So like I said, people eat with their eyes. So and then social media. If you, if you do like have good editing skills or whatnot or good ideas and you can...It makes people want to come in just because of what like a reel that you did very well too. So that&#039 ; s why there&#039 ; s a lot of food bloggers. People invite food bloggers to the restaurants first because they have a wide reach. So if they&#039 ; re there and they see what it then people are going to migrate there to and check it out. |00:34:39| BRODY So do you see yourselves as influencers? |00:34:42| LY No. Not really. No. We&#039 ; re just here to help the community. I mean, I never really influence anyone. Just there for people to check and get good food and see what&#039 ; s out there. So. |00:34:54| BRODY Well, 50,000 people joined the group. So, in terms of the role of this group in the DFW food landscape, I think this is kind of what you&#039 ; re talking about here. What is your and your friends&#039 ; philosophy going forward? |00:35:12| LY It&#039 ; s going to be the same thing just from the start. Support, enjoy good food and we...Positivity is always a good thing. Everyone&#039 ; s always going to have a negative thing, but there&#039 ; s a time and place to say the negatives and whatnot. And people just got to learn. There&#039 ; s not one thing in the world everyone&#039 ; s going to agree on. Like, you can&#039 ; t tell me one thing that everyone likes. So some people like the sun. Some people like at night, you know, stuff like that. So just they just got to remember, food is subjective, and you like what you like. |00:35:52| BRODY Speaking of that, what role do you think food plays in sort of communicating or educating about culture? |00:36:00| LY It helps people learn about the culture, where it came from because and also, so it goes from you ate something well, like you like a lot. You might want to try to make it at home. So you look up the recipe. And then a lot of the recipes have an origin story, like this came from my mom&#039 ; s recipe from Vietnam or Thailand, whatever. So that helps other people learn about where it came from and whatnot. So food is...It&#039 ; s another language within itself without ever saying it, speaking or anything. So that&#039 ; s what I think it is. |00:36:38| BRODY Do you think eating food from other cultures than your own helps you connect with people from that culture? |00:36:46| LY Oh yeah, for sure. Because you can meet someone randomly, like while you&#039 ; re out and just be talking about food, like, &quot ; Oh, I had this, this is really good.&quot ; Or I&#039 ; m trying to think of this dish and then they might know it. Food does connect people. Even if you don&#039 ; t know each other, you could just eat. People could talk about food all night long. |00:37:10| BRODY For sure. Okay, I want to hear more about the food festivals and sort of the not online parts of this group. |00:37:18| LY So like the back end and how we did it. |00:37:21| BRODY How you did it, what the goals are. |00:37:23| LY So yeah, so we wanted to do, we talked about doing a food festival maybe like a year and a half ago. So it took that long to get it done. So we had to look for space obviously, but we wanted something central. And then we also had to think about if you wanted to charge vendors, charge admission or whatnot. So obviously if we wanted to charge admission, we had to, we had to find a place that was enclosed. So if we couldn&#039 ; t, then you have to rent fencing. Which- fencing is expensive by square footage. So at that time we decided we&#039 ; ll just scratch that, make everything free since it&#039 ; s our first one. And then we had to figure out what vendors we want as well and how many. So we basically did one. We did ones that were like very popular in the group and then others that weren&#039 ; t well known. So we had a blend of both which helped a lot. So and then our good friends at Krio, they offered their space up, which is really great. So we were able to put it there and then just and then we wanted, then we decided we want entertainment too. So we actually had some like singers like Jonavi was one of them. She reached out to us and determined we had some DJs and then Rising Phoenix Lion Dance company. They came and did a little like 20-minute routine. They&#039 ; re like the number one Lion Dance company in Texas, especially in DFW. |00:38:50| BRODY Where did you hold it? |00:38:52| LY It was in Bishop Arts at Krio spot. So right in front of their, what would you call it, their big patio, whatever. And then the parking lot, we closed the street off and everything. Then just getting permits was a tough one. |00:39:08| BRODY I&#039 ; m sure. |00:39:08| LY Especially with Dallas. They&#039 ; re tough. So, yeah. |00:39:11| BRODY Tell me about that. I mean, none of you were in that line of work. And this is... |00:39:17| LY Kimberly. She&#039 ; s actually familiar with permits and whatnot because of her job. So she knew like kind of what to do. So basically, we just had to- we basically went on their website and just looked at the rules and who to contact and whatnot. Just takes forever to get permits. And we wanted the street closure too because it would be more safe. And luckily, we got that because that helped the flow of everything. But then food vendors had to get their own permits and whatnot. And then if you&#039 ; re a food truck, that&#039 ; s a different permit. And if you weren&#039 ; t a restaurant, a brick and mortar, it&#039 ; d be a different permit, there&#039 ; s a lot, but we got it done. So yeah. |00:39:56| BRODY So was it a good turnout? |00:39:57| LY It was a very...I think throughout the whole day it was over 1000 people throughout the whole day from noon to six. And I asked my vendors to please not sell out, but they sold out by like 3:00, 4:00. I was hoping that by 5:00, they&#039 ; d be sold out, but a lot of them just sold out quick. |00:40:15| BRODY Right, because there was so much demand. |00:40:17| LY The only the bad part about that day was the heat. And it was...Because I wanted to do it where it was cooler like early in the year, in a year, but then it was AAPI month. We have to tie that in, which was perfect. So I mean, other than the heat, everything was great. |00:40:31| BRODY And do you see yourselves doing another one every year? |00:40:34| LY Yes. I don&#039 ; t know what location yet, but we will. We want to do at least once a year, at least so. And I want to turn it into a big night market, too, because I know if you&#039 ; ve been to OC, they have a night market. It&#039 ; s like 150 vendors and they only charge like five bucks admission and then they do like once a month, I think. |00:40:55| BRODY So it&#039 ; s that&#039 ; s yeah, that&#039 ; s a, that&#039 ; s a really good idea. And there&#039 ; s nothing like that. |00:41:00| LY There is not. Yeah. So I think it&#039 ; d be great if we can get that done. |00:41:04| BRODY So do you see events like that as sort of enhancing the group or vice versa? |00:41:12| LY You know, enhancing for sure, because it gives them some, it gives the members more than just going on the page to like to look at food and talk about it. So at least with the festival, it brings all members, even nonmembers, just to one area. They can enjoy tons of food at once, too. And then know about these places that they&#039 ; ve never heard of. |00:41:33| BRODY So do the vendors hand out, like cards or things like that? |00:41:39| LY I don&#039 ; t think they did for this one, but I mean, their social media is, are always. Plus on our Instagram page, I highlighted each restaurant, each vendor, like each day. So people can see that. |00:41:53| BRODY So and always go back in. |00:41:55| LY Yeah, for sure. |00:41:58| BRODY Did you group well, do you ever talk about your responsibilities that, that you feel now that you have all these followers and have built this community. |00:42:06| LY Yeah. We just...Responsibility of keeping, maintaining what we&#039 ; ve been doing, keeping the same keeping same throughout, like positive to make sure we don&#039 ; t go against what we&#039 ; ve been doing. So then I think that&#039 ; s the biggest responsibility of the group. Just make sure it stays maintained and just doesn&#039 ; t one day, just we stop and like what happens now? So it&#039 ; s a thing we&#039 ; re going to have to keep like keep going and going. |00:42:38| BRODY So it sounds just unrelenting. There&#039 ; s, every day, every hour, and a lot more to do. And plus with your ideas for growth or expansion into, you know, bricks and mortar and also other cities that... |00:42:54| LY Yeah, the other cities I really like because it just gives them one platform because, you know, they don&#039 ; t have what we have. So Oklahoma City restaurants can promote on our page if they want. And you know, because we do get posts for people asking about restaurants and they&#039 ; re visiting Hawaii, New York, we have to decline them because we&#039 ; re DFW based. I can&#039 ; t. At first, we did open it up like when we first started to like any city just, you know, we&#039 ; re supporting. But then as we were like, we got to just make it strictly DFW. So yeah, the website would be good for people who travel outside of DFW. |00:43:34| BRODY And I mean, would it, will be challenging to maintain the spirit and the quality? |00:43:39| LY For... |00:43:40| BRODY For if you were expanding to other cities. |00:43:42| LY No, I don&#039 ; t think it would be too much of a challenge. I mean, of course, maintaining make sure the, you know, on the back end like, you know, all the editing and whatnot on the website, that&#039 ; s something different. But overall it would help because we do get a lot of out of state questions, out of DFW, even for Houston. And then we do since we&#039 ; ve ended up in the early stages, we have let those kinds of posts go through. It&#039 ; s still there. So if we see a question, will just tag them in that one. But then because in the group, when you like, comment on a post, it goes to the top so everyone can see it. So that helps too. |00:44:22| BRODY Yeah. Earlier you mentioned that you explicitly, you know, did not want this to be a Yelp type scenario where people were, you know, posting reviews. And that makes me think about sort of the relationship of a large group like yours that has so much influence with traditional food media. What are you know, what are your thoughts about that? |00:44:46| LY So I know a lot of businesses hate Yelp. Like they can&#039 ; t stand them. I mean, I still use Yelp just to find places or I&#039 ; ll look at pictures, but I don&#039 ; t ever really, I don&#039 ; t read the reviews because I like to...I like to I would like to go there and have my own opinion on it if I like it or not. So and then at least with the Facebook group, with the positivity. We always tell people, &quot ; If you have a problem with what happened at the restaurant, just try and talk to the owner yourself.&quot ; Message them. You don&#039 ; t have to put in that group. So I think Yelp just kills businesses. Because even like, oh, there&#039 ; s one time, my friend&#039 ; s seafood restaurant, she, that a customer gave a bad review on Yelp because she wasn&#039 ; t giving chopsticks for her rice. I say it&#039 ; s a seafood restaurant because they serve rice just like gumbo or whatnot. And then I was like, you know, she left a bad view just because of that. I was like, &quot ; So Yelp is evil.&quot ; |00:45:53| BRODY What about the sort of traditional food media? Like, you know, the magazine reviews, newspaper reviews, things like that. Where do you know, sort of what are your opinions around that and your group&#039 ; s relationship with that type of critique? |00:46:08| LY They...So you&#039 ; re like sort of a blogger goes in. |00:46:12| BRODY Yeah. Or like, yeah, like a reviewer from the Dallas Morning News or something like that. |00:46:17| LY Yeah, I&#039 ; ve actually read a lot of those articles. I haven&#039 ; t seen it&#039 ; s been all good for those type of that type of media because it&#039 ; s highlighting the restaurant, of course, and then it&#039 ; s letting people know about it because they have not heard of it. I haven&#039 ; t seen anything bad from those types. |00:46:35| BRODY So they&#039 ; re different than Yelp. |00:46:37| LY And yeah, they&#039 ; re basically just highlighting the store, the restaurant itself and giving the backstory of the owner. So, I&#039 ; ve seen all positive stuff for like and stuff like that. |00:46:49| BRODY I don&#039 ; t know if you can say, but in in your administering this group, what have been some of the finds that have most excited you, that you think places that you didn&#039 ; t know about that you found out about through this group. |00:47:01| LY The there&#039 ; s an egg tart place in Richardson, Maria&#039 ; s. Oh, yes. Maria&#039 ; s Egg...something. And she- they put in a pizza box like 24 egg tarts, always fresh, so good. And then there&#039 ; s a bunch of I mean, I, I&#039 ; ve eaten around a lot, so there&#039 ; s a place that I tell people about in Haltom City called Asiannights. It&#039 ; s Lao-Thai restaurant, sweet family. Super good. Their crispy pork belly with the pork sauce- really good. So I like to, I like to tell when people ask for suggestions, I&#039 ; ll just give a small list of stuff that are popular within the group that aren&#039 ; t known yet, and then it&#039 ; s up to them to try it. |00:47:47| BRODY So yeah, I&#039 ; ll bet a lot of people ask you personally for suggestions. |00:47:50| LY Oh yeah. I get texts from friends all the time. Instead of them wanting to use the group, they&#039 ; ll just ask me. |00:47:56| BRODY So in case you&#039 ; re keeping secrets or something. |00:47:58| LY Or if I&#039 ; m on regular, my own page and I&#039 ; ll see a friend ask about whatever, and then I&#039 ; ll just tag them in a post in the group. |00:48:07| BRODY So that&#039 ; s great. Looking back over the last few years and these experiences, what are some reflections or what have you learned from this whole unexpected experience? |00:48:22| LY I have learned that people love food, and they&#039 ; ll argue over food. But also support is really big out here in DFW. You would have not known if this group was not created because normally, they would just support their friends or whatnot. So and then we&#039 ; ve only had, like I said, Yelp or Google reviews to go to figure out what to eat. So that&#039 ; s the biggest surprise. And like the support, that everyone gets together for a good cause. |00:48:55| BRODY Yeah. That&#039 ; s I mean, it&#039 ; s really interesting because of the emphasis on positivity and that they&#039 ; re not actually restaurant reviews, it&#039 ; s a whole a genre that doesn&#039 ; t exist otherwise. |00:49:10| LY Your own. Instead of just putting it on your own Facebook. That&#039 ; s what the group is for. Just to let people know about it. &quot ; I love this place. You know, someone else is going to love it, too.&quot ; |00:49:21| BRODY What do you think the impact of this group has been? How have you changed DFW? |00:49:28| LY The community got stronger, for sure. And then just, it&#039 ; s just amazing how many businesses it saved, like, I don&#039 ; t know. There probably been, there&#039 ; s been a few closures. But I think there would have been way more closures. But also, it helps people understand inflation and whatnot. And there&#039 ; s a like- people will complain about, &quot ; Oh, this got more expensive.&quot ; And you got to understand, everywhere is expensive, now. It&#039 ; s hard to get things though, it is what it is. But just helps people understand kind of the restaurant side, too. So that&#039 ; s what&#039 ; s good about it, too. |00:50:08| BRODY So it&#039 ; s really interesting. Well, I am so happy that I got a chance to talk to you. Is there anything that I didn&#039 ; t ask you today that you&#039 ; d like to add to this interview? |00:50:19| LY Honestly, you asked all good questions. Everything. |00:50:22| BRODY Thank you. |00:50:22| LY Yeah, it was great. |00:50:23| BRODY Thank you. And I really appreciate your work that you&#039 ; re doing and that your voice is included in this project. |00:50:30| LY Thank you very much. |00:50:31| BRODY Thank you so much. All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. audio Interviews may be reproduced with permission from the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. 0




“Interview with Vu Ly, August 1, 2022,” Digging In Dallas, accessed July 12, 2024,