Meet LA-based chef and food stylist, Sandy Truong An Tran Ho

Sandy Truong An Tran Ho is an Australian-born, Los Angeles-based professional chef, food stylist, and the founder of Sandita’s — a food company that hosts events and pop-ups around the world. Sandita’s champions local makers and farmers with nostalgic menus of Vietnamese flavors and an artful approach to plating and food design.

We recently asked Sandy to develop a couple of recipes to celebrate Thanksgiving, combining her Australian Vietnamese roots with Sandita’s nostalgic cooking style.

I grew up in a town called Belmore in the Western suburbs of Sydney. Clearly we did not celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia, but having lived in the US for the past 6 years, I know how important this time is to slow down and reflect on the people around you.

Belmore, where my parents still live, boasts a multicultural landscape of Greeks, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Koreans and Sudanese. These cultural surroundings always meant that our dinner table was filled with food from all over and I’ve always loved it! Braised lamb shanks, Lebanese bread, olives, kim chi, rice and spring rolls with fish sauce all sat at the same table. I often crave this joy in eating which is why Thanksgiving is so nostalgic for me. It is about bringing a part of yourself to the table with story, gratitude and food - so much food!

The concept for my recipes pays tribute to my Vietnamese roots and Australian upbringing. I remember the first time my mum bought lamb for us to try (very quintessential Australian red meat). My brothers and I couldn’t handle the gaminess of the meat. Being the culinary genius she is, she pottered away in the kitchen and soaked this lamb in familiar flavors - fish sauce, garlic, brown sugar and sesame oil. Now, this lamb dish lives at every family bbq we have!

The baked sweet potatoes are a nod to the classic sweet potato casserole, replacing marshmallows with a salty maple whipped butter and a punch of funk and freshness with my Vietnamese green sauce.

These two dishes are truly a slice of home for me.

I absolutely love the natural forms and curved edges of Mud Australia porcelain. I always gravitate to plating on pink coloured plateware and enjoy the playfulness of blossom next to red.

In my culture red is a colour of prosperity and celebration. I adore the way small pops of it amongst the table spread move my eye from one plate to the next. I like to keep it festive and fun!

Sandy’s food philosophy

Stay curious at the table. You never know what might change your mind!

Sources of inspiration

My inspiration comes from everywhere nature prevails. Having grown up in Sydney, I am intrinsically drawn to the ocean and the vastly rich landscapes that Australia offers. In the Western suburbs, I'm pulled to the smells of the local Vietnamese bakeries, the Lebanese fruit & spice shops and not to mention the charcoal chicken.

My inspiration pulls from all of these moments, from travel, from colors, from seeing the first persimmons in Autumn or the first Sungolds in summer. I’m constantly in awe of the world we get to play in. I feel very lucky for it.

On where to get the best local produce in LA

The Santa Monica farmers market. I am lucky to have forged great friendships with my farmers and I love spending early Wednesday mornings gathering produce and checking in, saying hello. It always sets my day straight and keeps me motivated.

Reducing waste during Thanksgiving

Turn it into a broth or soup. After a big day of eating I often gravitate to the comfort and ease of a soup the following day. I do this all year round but I especially love this as it starts to get chilly in California. Mashed potatoes can be turned into a beautiful potato and leek soup, leftover roasted turkey skin, bones and gravy make a delicious soup base, add whatever vegetables you have! As for stuffing, crisp that up in a pan for a perfect soup topping!