Nite Yun: Nyum Bai

nite yun of nyum bai restaurant
Photo: Nicola Parisi

Nite Yun
Nyum Bai

3340 E. 12th St., Ste. 11, Oakland, CA

Joined La Cocina: May 2014. Graduated: February 2018.

On the menu: kuy teav Phnom Penh (rice noodle soup with pork broth, shrimp and braised brisket); amok (catfish curry with kroeung, a spice paste, steamed in a banana leaf); koh (caramelized pork belly with coconut water, ginger, and palm sugar).

Nyum Bai (Khmer for “let’s eat!”) started as a pop-up in San Francisco, moved to a kiosk in Emeryville’s Public Market, and then opened its restaurant doors in Oakland in 2018. The national media helicoptered in and filed glowing write-ups in the New York Times, Bon Appétit, and Eater. The restaurant pays homage to classic Cambodian cuisine in a casual playful setting and showcases a Khmer rock and roll soundtrack. Nite Yun, who grew up in Stockton, was born in a refugee camp in Thailand, where her parents met after fleeing the Khmer Rouge regime. Genocide may have decimated a generation, but at Nyum Bai, Yun keeps Cambodian food and music very much alive.

Best New Restaurant, semifinalist, James Beard Awards, 2019
Bib Gourmand, Michelin Guide San Francisco, 2019
Best New Chef, Food & Wine, 2019
Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Culinary Arts, Vilcek Foundation
Young Gun Winner, Breakout Star of the Year & 18 Best New Restaurants, Eater
Restaurant of the Year, Eater SF, 2018
Hot 10 Restaurants, Bon Appétit, 2018
Rising Star Chef, San Francisco Chronicle, 2018

EdibleSF: How did La Cocina help you launch a food business?
I had a brand and an idea but did not know where to start. La Cocina helped me refine my business plan and transition from home cooking to working catering jobs out of their commercial kitchen, so I had cash flow and could save. Most importantly, they believed in my vision.

EdibleSF: What impact did fellow program participants have on you?
It’s so inspiring to see so many hard-working women, who defied so many obstacles, make their dreams come true through grit and determination. They gave me the strength to not give up when times were tough.

EdibleSF: What’s special about being a La Cocina alum?
I’m proud and honored to be part of a program that supports so many women and helps make opening a business possible. The La Cocina staff are committed and loving to all the entrepreneurs. It’s like a family.

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