Profiles in Innovation

Gourmet_picsize

From menu to management, Crustacean’s Helene An
Makes business a family affair

Gourmet
November 1999

As the daughter of a politically connected Vietnamese aristocrat, Helene An was being groomed to be a good wife and the consummate hostess. Instead, An, her husband and three daughters were forced to flee from the Communist regime in 1975. They arrived in San Francisco and were virtually penniless.
An worked nights at Thanh Long, a small Italian deli owned by her mother-in-law. “Slowly, slowly, we introduced Vietnamese foods, like spring rolls and barbecue,” An says. “Very simple things I thought Americans would like to eat.”
An’s gamble on her native cuisine struck a chord and Thanh Long was expanded several times, growing from twenty seats to two hundred to meet the demand. An met similar success in 1991 when she opened Crustacean, an upscale Vietnamese restaurant; a second Crustacean followed in 1997, this time in Beverly Hills.
The food is reminiscent of her homeland and her business is equally family driven. Hannah, An’s oldest daughter, oversees Thanh Long; Crustacean is looked after by Monique; and Elizabeth is in charge of Crustacean in Beverly Hills.
At 58, An says she has no plans for slowing down. Her daughters will ultimately inherit the business and after that, there are five grandchildren waiting in the wings.
The food is reminiscent of her homeland and her business is equally family driven. Hannah, An’s oldest daughter, oversees Thanh Long; Crustacean is looked after by Monique; and Elizabeth is in charge of Crustacean in Beverly Hills.
At 58, An says she has no plans for slowing down. Her daughters will ultimately inherit the business and after that, there are five grandchildren waiting in the wings.