MAI PHAM President & Founder
Fate. Destiny. That's the story of Star Ginger and Chef Mai Pham.
Mai and her family escaped Saigon right at the end of the Vietnam War 1975 arriving in the U.S. with just the clothes on their backs. Not unlike other refugees at the time, they faced extreme hardship. Mai managed to put herself through college and graduated with a degree in journalism. She became the first Vietnamese reporter on American television and worked for 10 years before opening Lemon Grass, the award-winning, pioneering restaurant she still owns in Sacramento. It was there that she discovered the power and magic of food, how it bridges gaps and lifts barriers. Unlike the early years when no one seemed to want anything to do with Vietnam – people were now interested in lemongrass, Thai basil, and nuoc mam (fish sauce).
Curiosity about the cuisine sparked and the media converged. Martha Stewart featured Mai's cooking in a 12-page spread in her magazine and TV show, and Terry Gross aired a major interview on National Public Radio 'Fresh Air.'
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Soon after Mai inaugurated a food column on Southeast Asian cuisine for the San Francisco Chronicle and authored multiple cookbooks in addition to hosting the "My Country My Kitchen: Vietnam" series on TV Food Network. An adjunct chef instructor and advisor to the Asian Council at The Culinary Institute of America, she's a frequent conference speaker and presenter.
Through these experiences, Mai witnessed the growing interest and demand for the flavors of her native Southeast Asia. This in turn led her to look beyond the walls of her restaurant and writings to share her food and culture with a wider audience. Thus Star Ginger was born.
VP Culinary Development and Operations
When Tina first joined Star Ginger in 2011, little did we know that she would love pho so much that she'd eat it practically every day, especially during store openings!
Lucky for us, Tina decided to partner with Mai to build Star Ginger from the ground up. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience garnered from two decades working in the foodservice sector. She held leadership positions in the retail grocery business including a seven year tenure at Whole Foods Market where she was Executive Coordinator for the Prepared Foods, Bakery and Specialty segments for Northern California, Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Prior to that she served as Sr. Vice President of Product Development & Purchasing for Fresh Choice Restaurants.
These days Tina's charge is multi-faceted and entrepreneurial with no job too big or too small. She guides our partners through all phases of the licensing process from layout, design and procurement to planning and overseeing new store openings, as well as continually working with partners on growing their business. Tina is passionate about quality and excellence and does whatever it takes to make our partners successful. She is often seen on-location working and training side-by-side with managers and staff.
One partner who has a lot of experience with national brands said Tina is the best trainer and coach he's ever worked with.
Regional Chef | Operational Support
Ricky is affectionately called 'Ricky More' because he's, well, just more! He loves food, cooking, and teaching and our Star Ginger partners will see him do just that – supporting, training, coaching, auditing and doing what it takes to help our units grow their businesses.
A graduate of Johnson and Wales, Ricky comes to Star Ginger from a diverse career background. He worked as chef instructor at Cordon Bleu and as executive chef for hotels and companies. He's held management positions at Disney World, and Aramark and Sodexo where he was responsible for multiple locations before entering into sales and product development. In his work for a major sushi provider, he developed national training programs and created Asian and sushi concepts for supermarket chains.
We're lucky to have Michelle because she performs like an entire art department! Before Star Ginger, Michelle worked for 15 years as corporate graphic designer for La Bou, a Sacramento-based bakery and cafe with over 25 locations. There, she worked with Chef Mai who co-owned the chain, to create a unique brand identity with visual graphics, from store design, POS marketing and merchandizing to posters, illuminated signage and billboards.
At Star Ginger Michelle is in charge of our brand portfolio and all graphic design matters. She works not only with management but also with our partners creating customized graphics for their location, be it digital menus or wall murals. She believes good design can breathe life into a brand, connecting people and evoking emotion and engagement.
Michelle is a graduate of California State University Chico with a B.A. in Visual Communications.