High Chef of Coloration who blends world flavors with Houston’s various meals scene

HOUSTON – Located in Katy Asian Town, Yelo is a festival of Southeast Asian cuisine that specializes in homemade banh mi sandwiches, spring rolls, vermicelli, and specialty coffees. The color yellow inspires, uplifts, brightens and offers hope, happiness, happiness and fun. Through this lens, Chef-Owner Alex Au-Yeung and Executive Chef Cuc Lam share the delicious and powerful flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine, using fresh, local ingredients and presenting both traditional and inspired preparations such as the Pho-rench Dip banh mi, a banh mi filled with Au-Yeung’s famous Malaysian beef rendang and another that turns Lam’s mother’s Char-Siu-Xiu-Mai recipe into a critically acclaimed sandwich.

As first-generation Americans who grew up in southern Mississippi, Cuc Lam’s early food memories are set against a backdrop similar to that of many Asian immigrants: cooking as a family. Lam learned to cook by watching her mother and aunts pick herbs, chop vegetables, and prepare sauce. From an early age, the idea that eating was a communal act was ingrained in her. The daughter of hard-working refugees, she grew up a key child and quickly learned to be self-employed by cooking rice, ramen and scrambled eggs for her younger sister and herself and later preparing nutritious meals for her own family.

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Chef family Cuc Lam (Kimberly Park Communication)

Developing a repertoire of Vietnamese, Cajun and Southern cuisine easily came close to the Gulf Coast with its abundance of fish, seafood and fresh garden herbs and vegetables. She brought these skills with her to Houston, where she worked as a teacher at an English middle school until she switched to the energy sector. Having a flexible schedule meant her Fridays were free to shop and prepare for the Saturday pop-up dinner she was throwing at her home for other foodies. Early media coverage caused a stir at Lam’s dinners and cooking classes, and for years it hosted sell-out events and fed thousands of guests every other weekend. After Lam was fired from her desk job in 2011, she opened Three Sheets, a neighborhood bar and grill. For two years, even after securing another full-time job, Lam created unique daily specials every night that allowed her to experiment with new recipes and learn the business side of hospitality. In 2018, Lam committed, as managing partner, to open and operate an Asian fast-casual restaurant called Sing in the Heights, to implement her vision and to be praised by critics and guests. Unfortunately, conflicting priorities led Lam to leave the concept and start throwing pop-ups again at home and local venues. After leaving Sing, Lam worked with several well-known local chefs on new concepts in two of Houston’s hip new food halls. At Bravery Hall she helped open Atlas Diner with Richard Knight (Feast, Hunky Dory) and The Blind Goat by Christine Ha (Master Chef Champion); on Politan Row, she helped her friend Evelyn Garcia (Decatur, Chopped Champion) found KIN.

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Chef Cuc Lam (Kimberly Park Communication)

Now that he has teamed up with chef and restaurateur Alex Au-Yeung (Phat Eatery) on YELO, Lam is serving as head chef at the banh mi shop developing a menu that celebrates the popular Vietnamese sandwich. Alongside traditional versions, Lam and Au-Yeung play with creative fillings and introduce sandwiches that explore the flavors of Southeast Asian cultures. As a result, the Houston Chronicle named Lam one of Houston’s Top Women Chefs of Color and CultureMap and recognized her as one of 11 Rising Star Chefs for 2021. In addition to her work in the kitchen, Lam is a talented writer. She has contributed to the Houston Press and Houston Food Finder as a restaurant critic and coverage of the local dining scene. Based in Houston, her adopted home, Lam enjoys making recipes to share with her son on her Just Cuc It food blog.

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