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Helene An

Helene An poses in her chef coat with her arms gently crossed.
Courtesy Da Lat Rose
Food & Wine

California Connection:

b. 1944

  • Longtime Bay Area and Los Angeles restaurateur


Biography current as of induction in 2024

Helene An, renowned as the “Mother of Fusion Cuisine,” significantly shaped American culinary culture by introducing Vietnamese cooking to the mainstream. A resilient figure who was once a refugee, An has become one of the nation’s most celebrated chefs.

Born during the early days of the Indochina War, An’s childhood was marked by alternating periods of privilege and hardship. Raised in Hanoi from 1948 to 1955 as the daughter of a high-ranking imperial official, her household had three dedicated chefs—French, Chinese and Vietnamese—who profoundly influenced her cooking style.

The eruption of the Vietnam War in 1955 led her family to seek refuge in Da Lat until 1963, when she married Danny An, a South Vietnamese Air Force pilot from a prominent industrialist family. But with the fall of Saigon in 1975, Danny went missing in combat. Fleeing with her three children, An later reunited with him in the Philippines and they came to San Francisco. There, the family expanded with two more daughters, bringing the total to five:  Hannah, Elizabeth, Monique, Jacqueline and Catherine.

Adapting to their new life, An worked as an accountant by day and by night cooked at the family’s restaurant, a small Italian deli that her mother-in-law had purchased on a whim in 1971. An played a pivotal role in converting it into a Vietnamese restaurant named Thanh Long, achieving acclaim as the first Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco. Thanh Long initially struggled, with Americans hesitant to embrace traditional Vietnamese cooking. Recognizing this, An introduced fusion elements (French, Vietnamese, Chinese) from her childhood, creating familiar yet exotic dishes such as her signature AN’s Famous Garlic Noodles™. This success led to the opening of Crustacean San Francisco in 1991 marking the initial foray of Euro-Vietnamese cuisine into the culinary world of the United States. Six years later, Crustacean Beverly Hills was born, solidifying her title as the “Mother of Fusion Cuisine.” 

Not just a chef but a pioneer, An is a culinary icon whose enterprise encompasses six popular U.S. restaurants, a catering division and three international establishments, with the first slated to open in March 2024, and the highly anticipated new Crustacean San Francisco opening in spring 2024. An was recognized by the Smithsonian Institute in 2007 and 2019 for her contributions to introducing Vietnamese cuisine to mainstream America, and in November 2022 she was inducted into the Asian Hall of Fame. In 2016, she published “An: To Eat,” featuring 100 renowned recipes and her culinary journey. An’s legacy also lives on through her daughters, who remain involved in the family business.

View more inductees from the 17th class, inducted in 2024.