Dai Huynh learned to connect with people through food from birth. The center of family life has always been at the table, where her mother, a self-taught Vietnamese cook, connected her five children and finicky husband with steaming bowls of jasmine rice and noodle soups. Through sheer luck, Dai turned eating into a career after the main food writer at the Houston Chronicle got tired of eating out (yes, it's possible). Her editor sent her off to get her culinary degree at the Culinary Institute LeNotre, where she learned about master sauces from Patrick LeNotre, a two-star Michelin chef who has prepared meals for French presidents. At the time, Dai believed that it was important to first master a recipe so you know how to not only cook it properly, but taste the dish before you change, embellish or reinterpret it. Eventually, Dai earned awards for her food and travel writing, including the prestigious James Beard Awards.