Whether it’s a taste of Vietnamese cuisine or a plate of soul food, chef and owner of Flowers of Vietnam, George Azar, and Executive Chef of SavannahBlue, Chris McClendon, agree that creating good food is all about exploration.
Chris McClendon: You were raised in Detroit. Why did you want to open your restaurant here?
George Azar: I left and came back and left and came back, but always knew I wanted to do something here. I identify with the surroundings. It’s home.
CM: Conceptually, do you feel like you’ve done everything you can with Flowers of Vietnam? Is there something else you’re interested in exploring?
GA: If you’re not growing, you’re dying. I never want to be boxed into a certain genre or way of doing things. There’s only ever going to be one Flowers of Vietnam, but I wouldn’t mind working on Mexican food. I just want to make the things that I crave and that I hope other people will crave.
CM: You hit the nail on the head. I wanted to go all the way left because, as an African-American, people expect me to do Southern food. We’re Southern-inspired, but it’s a different cuisine all on its own. Did you feel like you had a lot going against you by opening a Vietnamese spot in Mexicantown?
GA: Vietnamese food is a lot like Mexican food as far as the flavor profiles go. I put chicken wings on the menu because I knew people needed something familiar. If they like the wings, they’ll trust me to try other stuff on the menu. I want to be able to educate the people that walk through my door.
—As told to Jordan Jewell