Kathy Manning, Owner of Hy Vong Vietnamese Cuisine
Why she’s in the Food 50: Kathy Manning is a pioneer of Vietnamese food in South Florida, with her Hy Vong celebrating its 35th year in business. The restaurant, nearly hidden along Calle Ocho in Little Havana, isn’t a nostalgia act or a tourist trap. It’s where locals know to go for soul-nourishing, steaming bowls of aromatic pho, sinus-clearing helpings of lemongrass chicken, and — for the offal lovers among us — stewed curry chicken livers and gizzards.
Hy Vong, Vietnamese for hope, started from the most heartwarming place: Manning brought Vietnamese refugee Tung Nguyen into her home in 1975. Nguyen, who was pregnant and widowed, had a knack for cooking the dishes of her war-torn homeland. She and Manning, a former math teacher, opened Hy Vong as a way to support Nguyen’s daughter’s education (Lyn Nguyen went to Harvard and Cornell). All these years later, they’re still at it, with Nguyen running the kitchen and Manning handling guests in the snug, always-full dining room. And Manning is still in the heartwarming business: During a recent charity dinner that raised $1,000 for the Coral Gables Branch Library, Manning made sure all of her employees who wanted one signed up for a library card.
Where to find her: Hy Vong, 3458 SW Eighth St., Miami.