Vui and John Hunt
Restaurants that Welcome and Nourish
Vui Hunt, and her husband John, are start-up veterans in the Nashville restaurant scene, currently owning and running four restaurants and juice bars of their own. With Vui’s Kitchen and Vui’s Juice Cafe, they continuously bring innovation to restaurant cuisine and healthy juice bars. To add to their success, Vui’s Kitchen has been named Nashville’s BEST Vietnamese, five years and running.
How did you decide to start a fast casual Vietnamese restaurant in Nashville?
Vui begins by admitting that her husband, John, was her biggest cheerleader in bringing their favorite Vietnamese cuisine into the Nashville scene. “I was born and raised in Vietnam. I came to the States when I was 12, and we’ve been in Nashville since 2008 via Atlanta. So I just wanted to create an approachable and accessible space to just really bring a Vietnamese flavor profile into the community. There wasn’t a lot of that here, any of that. And I wanted to just love on people and create a warm and inviting space so that everyone feels welcome. With Vui’s Kitchen, I’m able to really achieve that and just really share my love for serving others in a wholesome, warm, loving space.”
How did you become a Vietnamese chef?
Vui first began her professional journey with Vietnamese cuisine when she was nineteen, working at a vegetarian restaurant, sharing that one day quickly turned into ten years. She quickly quit school, letting the restaurant become her school of life, claiming that she learned everything there is about hospitality and food in that place.
How did you and Vui meet?
John tells the story as if it was yesterday. “One day I missed my turn for Smoothie King, and I was like, oh gosh, what am I going to do? Then, I looked to the right and there was Veggie Land… I went in and I was just captivated. Then, I came by the next day and she remembered me. She said, hi John, welcome back. And I just melted… then I came back the third day and the fourth day, becoming a regular. What really blew me away the most was she knew everybody. When her birthday came around, she got flowers from fifteen different people and balloons and a dozen little kid drawings. It was incredible to see the community come around her.”
How do you transition from a restaurant with smoothies, to just a Juice Bar, and now back to a restaurant?
“It’s an evolution of a Juice Bar. It’s a cafe that has fresh juices and smoothies, but we also have tons of really great food items and also a coffee program to share with everyone… It feels complete to me. It’s not about perfection. It’s creating a wellness space where we can serve whole foods with love and intention.” Vui shares that she owes the environment of Vui’s Kitchen to the people she works with daily sharing the same spirit and energy as her, “It’s like that all day long, this vivacious space. It’s very contagious.”
How has your marketing evolved and flexed along with your businesses?
John recalls the 80/20 rule, “80% of the restaurant marketing… it really happens in-house, taking care of people. The food can be great, but if they have a lackluster experience and no one said please or thank you, the great food gets looked over and then it’s just good food. If you have a great experience on top of that (great food), then that’s a really fun place to go. I think our marketing… the homework is getting it right inside the four walls.”
Do you feel that through all of these different ways that you have made Vietnamese cuisine more approachable?
Vui first wanted to create an everyday space that’s Vietnamese food, because that is what she had growing up. Her food, she shares, was being served to her in a very fresh, clean, delicious way. So, she aimed to eliminate things that are not needed–additives, processed food. In doing this, she highlights the freshness of her ingredients, all while making them accessible to every member of the community.
What has this business meant to your family?
“I loved Juice Bar but we knew what it would take to start a restaurant,” shares Vui, “It’s an all hands- on-deck commitment just to open the door and get it going, we knew that from Veggie Land. And so, for a second, we said, hey, do we really want to take our young children into this restaurant life and have them be at the effect of all that? We thought about it for a minute and then we realized, no, wait a second. We will raise them in this environment so they will see their parents working hard. They will see what it is like to take a risk, and just put it out there… They’ve been along for every step of the way. And so, here, twelve…fourteen years later, our oldest, she’s going to clock in officially, tomorrow, for the first time.”
Resources and Links
Vui’s Juice Cafe