Contemporary Vietnamese home cooking in the heart of Alphabet City, NYC
Chao Chao means a number of things in Vietnamese, depending on various accent marks and their placement. All meanings are food and hospitality related: a welcoming “hello”, a warming “soup”, delicious “meatballs”, or “shrimp balls” a sizzling “wok”, and, the accentuation used for the restaurant’s name, tangy “fermented tofu”.
Chao Chao is the brainchild of Stuy-Town native, Stephan Brezinsky. The concept is based in his life experience, growing up around Alphabet City in the 90s, listening to the Beastie Boys, and going home to feast on his mother’s Vietnamese home cooking.
Kimxuan Brezinsky grew up primarily in Saigon. She has lived in Stuy-Town for 41 years, and raised her family there. She is named for the Golden Spring, born in March, in the Year of the Meadow, when golden blossoms cover the trees. Mrs. Brezinky is said to be just like her mother, feisty, strict, and honest, with a warm and welcoming home. She is a teacher of French and philosophy at New York’s United Nations School, and, an excellent cook.
*Add paragraph about Mrs. Brezinsky’s French culinary influence.
Mrs. Brezinsky grew up in a very health conscious household. Her grandfather was a doctor, or soothsayer. Mealtimes were always very important gatherings for the family. Each diner had two sets of chopsticks – one ivory set for serving themselves from serving bowls, and, one ebony set for eating. If they had guests, meals could last hours and hours, with the hosts always waiting to finish eating until after their guests have had their fill (and, the guests sometimes taking the tradition a bit to far and doing the same).
As an adult, following this host/guest eating contest tradition, Mrs. Brezinsky and a friend stuffed themselves silly over a marathon meal. Once neither of them could muster another single bite, they confessed to each other how full they had become while trying to be polite!
Mrs. Brezinsky didn’t have to worry about those formalities as Stephan was growing up, however, she did struggle (as many parents will relate) in getting him to eat his vegetables. Specifically, any green vegetables. Fortunately for Chao Chao, Stephan has grown out of his green-vegetable aversion, and offers a warmly colorful menu!