“Birmingham has an incredibly receptive, engaged, and enthusiastic audience when it comes to pioneering positive change for the community. Cooking and sharing food is a very sincere way to connect with others, and establishing connectivity becomes a foundation for prompting change. I feel that there is plenty of opportunity for culinary entrepreneurs in Birmingham because this city welcomes the thinkers and doers, artisans, and creatives who will help introduce new ideas to the table.”
Name: Angel Vuong
Occupation: Owner of Cyclo Eatery
Creative Industry: Culinary Arts
1. You created Cyclo Eatery, a Vietnamese street food pop-up; what was the inspiration behind Cyclo?
I grew up in the kitchen and around food. My parents and extended family owned Chinese restaurants in Tarrant and Homewood, AL, and food has always been a way for my family to stay connected with our heritage. (I am ethnically Chinese and Vietnamese.)
My mother always cooked very traditional meals at home and worked in the kitchen very intuitively, cooking from the heart. I have always been inspired by her creativity and dedication to preparing healthy, flavorful meals.
I moved to San Francisco shortly after graduating from Birmingham-Southern College in 2012. The Bay Area has a wonderful culinary community that encourages experimentation, education, engagement, and creativity. I found myself in the midst of one of the greatest American food cities, fell in love with the food culture, got to know many culinary artisans, and asked lots and lots of questions. Craving my mom’s home cooked meals, I began to recreate and modernize her dishes for myself and for friends.
A cyclo [see-kloh] is the Vietnamese rickshaw, once a primary form of transportation in Vietnam. Cyclo pedicabbers were essentially the eyes and ears of their communities and served as the reliable resource for news, gossip, events, and the like. Influenced by the theme of collective gatherings and joining together friends and strangers to share lighthearted conversations, good food, and good ol’ times, Cyclo was born.
2. What made you decide to move back to Birmingham after spending time in San Francisco?
I did my first pop-up in Birmingham this past March at the Woodlawn Street Market. Even though I was only home for one week, it felt like a warm homecoming. Birmingham was quick to let me know that I was welcomed home and that, if I were to embark on my new business venture here, I’d be supported along the way. I remember sitting in an airport terminal on a layover back to San Francisco ruminating over what a great time I’d had and brainstorming ways to run a business in Birmingham from the West Coast. Next thing you know, one week later I’m on a flight back to Birmingham and planning out pop-ups for the next couple of months!
3. What kind of benefits does Birmingham have for culinary entrepreneurs like yourself?
Birmingham has an incredibly receptive, engaged, and enthusiastic audience when it comes to pioneering positive change for the community. Cooking and sharing food is a very sincere way to connect with others, and establishing connectivity becomes a foundation for prompting change. I feel that there is plenty of opportunity for culinary entrepreneurs in Birmingham because this city welcomes the thinkers and doers, artisans, and creatives who will help introduce new ideas to the table. In my case, I am eager to introduce more ethnic cuisine and vegetarian/vegan dining options to Birmingham.
4. What kind of support do you think would be helpful?
Continuing to build and maintain community rapport is essential. The concept of Cyclo is to share ideas and news by word-of-mouth, and that has by far been the most helpful way for us to grow. I encourage people to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, to spread the word, and to invite a friend to one of our upcoming pop-up events.
5. How do you hope CO.STARTERS will move your business concept forward?
Cyclo was born from big ideas, starting small, being passionate, and not knowing what to anticipate. I have thought about the big picture and know what I want to contribute to Birmingham without knowing what issues I might encounter along the way. While this will continue to be a learning experience, I am hoping that CO.STARTERS will help me reexamine my assumptions about being a small business owner, to address potential issues, and to connect me with likeminded movers and shakers.
Instagram: @cycloeatery #cycloeatery