LSU Business School Graduate Turned “Top Chef” Competitor

BATON ROUGE - From business school at LSU in Baton Rouge, to cooking in New York City, LSU graduate Nini Nguyen is now a chef with a growing career.

“I recently competed on ‘Top Chef.’ My last project before the show was Cook Space in Brooklyn, New York, where I helped create a recreational culinary school,” Nguyen said. “A goal of mine is to move back home to New Orleans when a business is right for me.”

Nguyen’s education at LSU started in 2005, due to Hurricane Katrina. 

LSU graduate Nini Nguyen competed in season 16 of

LSU graduate Nini Nguyen competed in the 16th season of "Top Chef." Photo Credit: Nini Nguyen

“I was actually enrolled at UNO and because of Katrina, my family and I moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Since I was not able to return to UNO, I went to LSU and fell in love with the culture there and decided to get my degree there.”

Nguyen said she is the second person in her family to graduate from college. 

“It was very important to me to finish college both for myself and my family. My parents and grandparents came to America in the 1970s and were refugees from the Vietnam war. They decided to settle in New Orleans because fishing was something the Vietnamese people knew how to do for work. I think the French influence was also another comforting factor as to why so many Vietnamese people chose New Orleans. If you go to the French quarters of Hanoi, you would see a huge resemblance between Vietnam and New Orleans,” Nguyen said.

While receiving her degree in business from LSU, she also turned her sights to her cooking career.

“In my senior year, I went to a pastry shop in New Orleans and I just knew that I wanted to be a chef. I finished my degree and then enrolled in culinary school. I have used the knowledge I learned at LSU every day and my business degree from LSU has helped me tremendously throughout my career so far. I have always been entrepreneurial and the skills that I have because of LSU has helped me excel in my career.”

Most recently, she competed in season 16 of the Bravo network television show, “Top Chef.”

“The process of becoming a contestant for ‘Top Chef’ is an intense one. First you have to showcase your skills and personality and then there are a few interviews and a psychological test. But once you are picked, that’s when the real hard part comes. The competition is a lot harder than it appears on television. On top of cooking and being filmed doing so, the hours of filming are very long, you don't have your family with you and you are always on edge because you never know when the next challenge will be.”

Nguyen said there are many factors that inspire cooking.

“There's a lot that goes into my style of cooking, but the people who have influenced me the most are the chefs that I have worked for, my family and the food that I grew up eating.”

She said some of her favorite foods can be found not far from LSU’s gates.

“My favorite place on campus might be the Chimes on Highland. I have many memories meeting friends there for lunch. But really, LSU is an amazing place to learn, grow and do what you love. I really enjoyed my time in college and LSU is a place that makes you want to come back. It is always nice to bump into a fellow Tiger wherever you are.”



Contact Rachel Holland
LSU Media Relations