He’s back, folks, and this time he’s here to stay.
Chef Hung Huynh, the uber-talented chef and winner of Top Chef Season 3, has signed on to become Director of Culinary Innovation for the Omei Restaurant Group just three months after leaving his post as executive chef of Ava MediterrAegean.
Huynh was serving as a New York City-based consultant to various high-end restaurants around the country when Omei’s Johnny and Jimmy Tung connected with the Vietnamese-born chef at the Reunion Omakase at Morimoto Asia two weeks ago.
“We are beyond excited and honored chef Hung is joining our restaurant group,” says Omei’s Johnny Tung. “He’ll help us take Orlando’s restaurant scene to new heights by mentoring our chef partners and developing new and exciting restaurant concepts.”
Huynh will offer his culinary expertise to the concepts under the restaurant group’s umbrella, specifically Bento Asian Kitchen, Collab Kitchens and Norikase in Jacksonville. He’ll also collaborate with Omei’s chef-partner concepts Camille, Doshi Box, Sugar Dough Bakehouse, Light on the Sugar, Foreigner, Soupa Saiyan and Mamak.
“I’m really looking forward to being a part of this team,” says Huynh. “Omei has been so successful in operating a wide range of concepts, and that really excites me.”
For Huynh, developing his own restaurant concept is certainly in the offing, and Tung tells me that may happen sooner than later. “With Michelin coming, we have to take advantage of this momentum,” he teases.
Ultimately, it could lead to Huynh having his own restaurant group, similar to how the Tung Brothers helped Sonny Nguyen create Domu Dynasty.
“Our goal is to have chefs that come through Orlando stay or stick around, and help build Orlando into a nationally and internationally recognized food city,” says Tung. “The hope is that other chefs around the country will take notice of where Orlando is headed and consider moving here as well.”
After snagging the Top Chef title back in 2007, the talented alum of Per Se and Guy Savoy spent four years with the EMM Restaurant Group before a well-publicized split. Hung bounced around after that and even did a stint at Morimoto Asia as chef de cuisine. In 2019, he opened Asian-fusion restaurant Warrior in L.A. but cut ties to the West Hollywood hotspot.
So what makes Omei a good fit for Huynh?
“I think at this stage in his career, he’s looking for a restaurant group to partner with rather than work for,” says Tung. “Omei provides a path to ownership, and we can help chefs create their own restaurant groups by providing chefs with resources to achieve their own personal goals.”
Huynh cites Omei’s diversified portfolio as a motivation to join the group.
“I’ve only spent a short time with Omei,” he says, “but I do like the fact that they have a lot of projects and a lot of fresh ideas. I don’t like to work at one thing. It gets stale for me. Omei offers me the opportunity to be involved with many different aspects of food service, from fast-casual to omakases to ghost kitchens.”
Huynh readily admits that working with an Asian-owned restaurant group also proved enticing.
“I’ve worked with many restaurant groups, but this one is owned by Asians and they do a lot of Asian concepts and I want to be a part of that journey. Orlando is ready for new, exciting concepts and I want to be involved in making that happen.”
Make it happen, chef. Make it happen.
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