Nahji Chu (aka Nga Chu) is an entrepreneur and restauranteur, and the Founder, former CEO and Creative Director of misschu.
Born in Luang Prabang, Laos in 1970, Nahji and her family escaped the Pathet Laos Regime in 1975. Inhabiting various Thai refugee camps over a three year period, the Chu family eventually became one of the first Vietnamese / Laotian refugees to settle in Australia in early 1978.
Nahji’s career is demarcated by the constant search for a voice that will synthesize the cultural schism between the Laos that she was born in and the suburbs of Australia that was home from age nine. This search to articulate the difference between her early and later childhoods led stints in journalism, filmmaking and fashion.
Nahji Chu is a recognized social commentator on refugee rights, a collector and commissioner of contemporary Australian visual art and a sought after public speaker. But it is her work in hospitality that is the focus of Nahji’s efforts to reshape Australian perceptions of Chinese and Vietnamese culture to be more than just dumplings, spring rolls and Phở.
An opportunity to grow a new fast food venture called ‘bite’ was too good to refuse and Nahji jumped into what had been for a long time the family business of hospitality. Not long after leaving Bite, Nahji founded misschu in 2007, originally as a catering business in Sydney, supplying venues and events with Vietnamese-inspired canapés and quickly grew to international recognition.
The first of its kind anywhere in the world, the misschu concept provided modern-day hawker takeaway with high end food. Disrupting the market with the instantly recognisable “You ling, we bling” home and office delivery on electric bicycles, and synthesising her childhood experiences, passion for the arts, and high design in the business identity and fit outs, misschu was a reflection of Nahji’s own vision for high-design fast food with largely gluten free and high quality ingredients that quickly became a hit with contemporary diners.
Nahji’s newest ventures CHU Catering and Cocochine Bar and Dining represents the most recent manifestation of the desire to create a hospitality experience that recalls Nahji’s early childhood experiences. CHU and Cocochine draws on her grandparent's own Chinese and Vietnamese heritage and the farmers afflicted by the locust plagues, who took to the streets with the first incarnations of Chinese and Vietnamese street food. Cocochine goes into the history of Vietnamese food being heavily influenced by the French when they first discovered it in 1770 calling it Cochinchina.
Nahji’s venues evoke the calm of Nahji’s early childhood in Laos – a memory potentially more fantastic than real. But isn’t that what everyone wants from a night out? In Laos people did not oscillate between the suburban home and the city. The culture and the community evolved via a series of connected open spaces.
For Nahji hospitality is a platform for discussing what kind of society we want to live in. The spatial design, the service and the menus Nahji creates are an expression of her desire for people to have enjoyable conversations about how to make our cities more open, inclusive and beautiful.
Nahji is also regularly sought out as a Vietnamese caterer, hospitality consultant, for talks and cooking demonstrations, tours to Vietnam, private events, and public appearances.
Nahji Chu currently resides in Sydney, Australia.
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