1996 Duc Tang
Chef/Restaurateur • Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
On Campus 1995–1997 ∙ DIPCS ’97, MCS ’97
I’m a self-taught chef, and have been running Pacific Rim by Kana in Ann Arbor for almost twenty years. I’m married to Janet (née Shim), also a Regent grad (MDiv ’98), and I enjoy woodworking and playing sports with our five kids.
How Regent made a difference:
For Janet and me, our studies at Regent have enhanced our marriage and family life. Our shared experience and theological training have informed everything we do: our marriage, our work, how we raise our kids, how we live out our faith as a family. We find that some of our closest friends and people we look to for guidance are Regent alumni and Regent professors.
My studies at Regent also helped me shape a vision for how to bring the gospel to bear in the notoriously difficult restaurant industry. Working faithfully in this context requires re-thinking almost every industry norm. For example, most restaurants operate with net profit as their primary goal, but we decided to make hospitality our driving focus. When a Regent classmate and I launched Pacific Rim, our goal was to create a restaurant that expressed our faith and values in extending genuine hospitality to all. We wanted to pursue these ideals in the service we provided for customers, but also in the way we treated our staff. At daily staff dinners we sit around a table, serve each other, and enjoy good food together. I strive to maintain an uplifting, caring, and respectful working environment because the workplace in the restaurant industry is often degrading and dehumanizing. There’s clearly a need for creative and redemptive thinking here. Regent helped prepare me for that.
More From Duc
How I got to Regent:
I was doing missions work in Mexico City and decided to go to Regent because I wanted a solid theological foundation for whatever career path I would take after graduating, whether continuing in formal ministry or not.
The Road to Pacific Rim:
My career as a chef came about almost by happenstance. I grew up with a mom who was a good cook and I helped her in the kitchen as a kid, but it wasn’t until I arrived at Regent that my culinary odyssey really began. My two roommates and I decided that we would cook dinner together every night. We taught ourselves new dishes regularly because we didn’t want to eat the same things over and over, and we often had friends over to eat with us. I remember constantly calling my mom to ask her how to make certain foods I’d grown up eating. My interest in cooking grew.
All this time, I was working on my degree in biblical studies, not knowing what I would do when I finished. I had some ideas, like going to medical school (I grew up thinking about becoming a doctor and studied biochemistry in undergrad), teaching high school, or doing some kind of urban ministry, but I didn’t feel passionate about any of these ideas. I still wasn’t thinking about a career as a chef. Nonetheless, I was receiving formative teaching that I now see was giving me the theological foundation on which I could build a career in the culinary arts.
My culinary career began abruptly a few years after I graduated from Regent. A friend who remembered the meals he’d shared with my housemates had inherited a restaurant from his parents—and he wanted me to be its chef. I had zero culinary education and zero experience working in a restaurant, but I decided to take the plunge. I thought it could be an exciting learning experience!
That was the beginning of Pacific Rim by Kana. Tasked with creating a brand new menu, I started developing a pan-Asian style that drew on my own background. I was born in Saigon, Vietnam, but my family had to flee the country when I was eight. We spent time in refugees camps in Hong Kong and the Philippines before eventually landing in California. Living in many places exposed me to a wide range of Asian cuisines, and I enjoy playing with the many flavours and ingredients of those cuisines.
Most important Regent lessons:
I came to Regent with a stunted worldview that saw certain vocations such as medicine, teaching, and ministry work as somehow more worthwhile than other vocations, like finance or creative arts. At Regent, however, I learned that God created the whole world and called it good, and that God created us to live in the world and keep making it good. This allowed me to explore what God was calling me to do with my life within his wondrous world. I came to see my vocation in terms of how God could use my desires and gifts to make his kingdom somehow more present in the world around me.
My time at Regent also allowed me to reflect on my own journey and come to better understand how God had wired me. I’ve realized since that I derive great vocational satisfaction from creativity and physicality. My upbringing didn’t teach me to value being creative or working with my hands, but my experience at Regent gave me the freedom to explore those possibilities. I came to realize that my work feels most gratifying when I’m using my hands to create things. I’m doing that when I pursue hobbies like making furniture and upgrading our century-old house—and when I’m cooking.
Food, Community, and Theology:
Working with food requires theological thinking. Food as a means of enjoyment and nourishment is central to life in God’s abundant goodness. Preparing and cooking food needs to be done with care, integrity, and gratitude for God’s bounty. At the same time, food can’t be elevated above its place. I believe cooking good food is valuable and worthwhile, but the food is never more important than the people it’s serving. Good food brings people joy and nourishment, but it also brings them together at the table, in community with one another. It provides a context for relationship and fellowship. Preparing, serving and eating food are all deeply theological exercises.
Favourite Regent class:
All of Eugene Peterson’s classes.
Favourite thing about Vancouver:
The ocean and the mountains.
Aspect of your life that would have surprised you as a student:
Working as a chef!
Why I support Regent today:
We support Regent because we believe firmly in its mission. Our time at Regent has been foundational for how we live, work, and play.
As a donor, I'm supporting Regent's ongoing mission.
Would you join me?