It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Ann Nguyen, a hospitality student at Georgia State University and a recipient of an Les Dames D’Escoffier – Atlanta scholarship award.
I was curious to understand the challenges she faced as a hospitality major now taking all her classes online. I also wondered what her point of view was about the ‘new hospitality‘ and her thoughts of how these changes would impact the industry going forward.
About Ann Nguyen By Ann Nguyen: My name is Ann Nguyen, and I’m currently studying at Georgia State University, pursuing Hospitality Administration. I’m just your local, overexcited culinary fanatic who has her eyes on food business.
Diva Foodies: Congrats! on your Les Dames D’Escoffier – Atlanta Chapter 2019 Scholarship Award. Why did you choose to pursue a career in the hospitality industry?
Ann Nguyen: Thank you, Ms. Toby! My answer is quite simple. I am fascinated by the colorful, bustling industry, and I feel like it is where I should be. I guess it’s a natural gut feeling – I’ve always felt drawn to it.
Diva Foodies: What areas of hospitality most interest you and why?
Ann Nguyen: I am most interested in food business. For a while now, I’ve stood by my motto: “I live to eat.” More accurately to the original phrase, I’d “die for food” (chết vì ăn). I am always thinking of food – from its preparation to its service – and I can only picture myself in a culinary scene.
Also, food is a labor of love, and I’d like to share that love with everyone. A person’s genuine smile is so rewarding to see.
Diva Foodies: When you accepted the prestigious LDEI – Atlanta scholarship award, at the Atlanta Historic Center last August, both school and the hospitality industry were so very different. How have your classes changed this semester and what challenges does that bring to you and your friends?
Ann Nguyen: Things have changed quite a bit, and I both enjoy and hate the change. All my classes are online. I don’t need to travel down to Atlanta, and most of my learning takes place in a single room at home. I don’t have to worry about traffic, being around people, and rushing to my classes.
It is convenient though it can be dull at times. Of course, when it gets too dull, I like to use my time to learn new recipes! That’s nice compared to staying downtown all day.
Also, I’ve found that since all learning and testing is online, it has become increasingly important to have stable access to technology. This is a major struggle for many students – including myself. A single bump in your connection can cost you your grade; online learning can be unforgiving. On the bright side, I must say technical difficulties do help to develop problem solving and online communication skills.
Diva Foodies: “The New Hospitality” is a term that’s making its way into the food and hospitality worlds. What does “New Hospitality” mean to you?
Ann Nguyen: To me, the “new hospitality” is what the hospitality industry is transitioning into, due to the damaging effects of Covid-19. The term reflects all the changes and adaptations establishments are making in order to effectively serve and attract consumers while still encouraging safety and sanitation. It is a hospitality that can still thrive while considering social distance – both during and after this pandemic.
Diva Foodies: By definition the hospitality industry is literally a hands-on and people-to-people world. However, the pandemic now frequently demands a unique approach to events, guest services, and operations. I’m curious to understand if your professors are addressing the ‘new hospitality’ and what they’re including in their classes.
Ann Nguyen: At the moment, I’m not taking any class that is specific to hospitality; I’m working on my prerequisite courses. It is a shame that I can’t hear what our hospitality professors are discussing in their classes. However, speaking from prior experience, I am very certain that they are talking about the new hospitality. They are always on top of the news, and they are very eager to share and discuss different views.
Ann Nguyen: I’m glad you’re enjoying it! As for the catering, I’m preparing Vietnamese food alongside my mom. We both share the same passion for food, and very recently, we decided to accept orders from our friends and long-term fans (my mother has a history in catering). Since she is still relatively weak from her past chemotherapy and I’m partly busy with schoolwork, we produce about one to two bulk orders per week.
From this, my mom keeps herself engaged, and I get to cultivate my skills on the side. It’s been a lovely experience.
Diva Foodies: Take a peek into your crystal ball and tell us how you think the hospitality industry will have changed when it is again safe to travel and enjoy dining out.
Ann Nguyen: The hospitality industry has taken quite a beating during this pandemic; however, at the same time, it has been quite creative in serving people during such a difficult year.
I’m mostly thinking about food business adaptations: such as curb-side pickup, courtyard dining, and menu orders via barcode scanning. I believe these service options are here to stay, along with the stricter sanitation expectations.
We cannot erase what we’ve learned from this pandemic, and our clients/customers will make sure that we don’t. Expectations are at an all-time high, and I doubt they’ll go down.
Diva Foodies: What are a few of your favorite culinary things?
- My trusty blow torch. It is my favorite tool in the kitchen.
- Herb and vegetable seeds
- The USB containing my food cost excel file. I use this to record ingredient prices and to calculate profit.
- A notebook filled with recipes, ideas, trial-and-error notes, and insight from professionals
- A gift from my mentor which reminds me to “Bake the world a better place.”
Diva Foodies: As is Diva Foodies tradition, I’ll toss this back to you to wrap anyway you like.
Ann Nguyen: I’ve learned many new things during this pandemic, about the nature of business and the people in our country. A lot was ugly, and some was so heartwarmingly beautiful.
Among the beauty, I found something that I want to add to the foundation of my future business, and I’d love others to know about it – Bakers Against Racism. I hope to see more of this in food business.
I like to think that money is power,
and engaging others through food is art.