I love that Cassia’s food isn’t just Vietnamese or Asian, but Southern Californian,” says Ochoa, “It embodies one of the big ideas behind the award — ‘expanding the notion of Southern California cooking.’ Fish sauce can be as important to the cuisine of Los Angeles as olive oil.”
In 2016, Luu-Ng, an immigration lawyer whose family fled Vietnam during the war, and Ng launched L.A. Chefs for Human Rights, a fundraising platform to benefit local human rights causes. The Ngs host an annual dinner at Cassia for LACHR, with funds from the first two years going to support the Program for Torture Victims, which provides medical services and legal support to refugees seeking asylum in Los Angeles.
Last year, Cassia partnered with the People Concern to help solve L.A.’s homelessness crisis, raising nearly $200,000 to help them feed hungry folks. In the last three years, they’ve gathered together chefs such as Niki Nakayama, Nancy Silverton, Jessica Koslow, Carlos Salgado and Ray Garcia to help cook dinner for the cause.