About the Restaurant
A Family Feature
Saigon Sisters Restaurant located in the Fulton River District’s bustling restaurant scene, is run by Vietnamese sisters, Mary Nguyen Aregoni and Theresa Nguyen, along with their mother, Mama Suu. The main inspiration for beginning their business came from growing up watching their mother and grandmother ran successful businesses as food distributors to markets & embassies in Laos and eating amazing Southeast Asian and French foods at an early age. After moving to the United States, their entrepreneurial spirit led them to work together and came up with the brand Saigon Sisters. And it all started at the Chicago French Market in 2009 where you can still find Mama Suu standing by her Pho station helping and serving banh mis, spring rolls, Pho and baos to workers and commuters.
Their delicious food became so popular with the lunch crowd that they decided to open a restaurant close by offering dinner as well as lunch. The dinner menu combines traditional home cooked Vietnamese food with some innovative touches from Executive Chef Kevin Marquardt and the excellent kitchen staff.
Now on their third location at Northwestern Memorial Hospital near the Magnificent Mile, you can have the same consistent and quality food as their other two locations. Everything is made from scratch fresh daily with premium ingredients while staying true to the bold and tasty flavors of Vietnamese cuisine.
Shining the Spotlight on Saigon Sisters’ new Executive Chef, Kevin Marquardt
Saigon Sisters, the popular Vietnamese restaurants with three locations in Chicago, has appointed Kevin Marquardt as the new Executive Chef. He is responsible for overseeing the day to day culinary operations of all three Saigon Sisters lunch and dinner locations as well as the Bang Chop Thai Kitchen location.
“My mission is to expand my knowledge of Southeast Asian Cuisine and help the company grow through an evolving menu. I fell in love with their food right away and see a ton of excellent growth potential for all of their concepts,” said Marquardt, who has already added some inspired items to the menu since joining the team in September. New items he has introduced to Saigon Sisters’ menu include Caramel Sriracha Wings, sweet and spicy chicken wings with a fresh papaya slaw, and Shrimp Dumplings with ginger-lime sauce and sprinkled with house made fried shallots. At Bang Chop, Marquardt’s new dishes include a spicy Red Thai Curry and for dessert, Sesame Tempura Bananas with a honey-soy chocolate dunking sauce.
Marquardt’s genuine interest in Southeast Asian cuisine and his respect for its ingredients and techniques are what drew the attention of Mary Nguyen Aregoni, owner and founder of Saigon Sisters and Bang Chop Thai Kitchen. “Kevin has a great palate and understands the flavor profiles of our cuisine very well,” said Aregoni. “In addition, he has strong business knowledge on how to run multiple restaurants and brands and that makes him a great fit for our growing company. We look forward to collaborate on new menu items with Kevin and continue to put out delicious Vietnamese and Thai food.”
Marquardt is a lifelong chef who has been working in restaurants since the age of sixteen. His first restaurant experience was a job scrubbing potatoes at a Texas Roadhouse and despite the far from glamourous work, he fell in love with the food industry.
Marquardt has gained a rigorous culinary education. He earned his Culinary degree from Kendall College and studied abroad at Suan Dusit Bangkok, then earned a B.A. in Business Management/Entrepreneurship from Illinois State University.
He has built an impressive culinary resume. His first chef driven restaurant position was working in the kitchen of the highly respected Ryan McCaskey at Courtright’s Restaurant. “Ryan taught me what the culture of a real kitchen should be and the standards for working professionally,” said Marquardt.
From there, he moved on to hold many line cook positions including Tru and Sepia and spent a few months abroad staging at Restaurant Noma. Marquardt then worked as a Sous Chef under Ken Myszka for three years at Epiphany Farms Enterprises. “Ken quickly became one of my biggest mentors; I learned the importance of hard work while being a chef and a farmer,” Marquardt said. “I started with the company when they were just a small farm doing dinner parties and was inspired by how hard Myszka worked to grow his business.”
His last stops before joining the team at Saigon Sisters were BellyQ and Urban Belly Restaurants, where he worked as Chef de Cuisine for Bill Kim for three years. He credits Kim for “teaching me the importance of systems and management. Besides learning his food and flavors, he taught me the importance of keeping your team motivated and consistent. Cooking and creating was the expected, and a Chef must be so much more because you’re going to deal with anything in a kitchen, ranging from psychology, accounting, laws, business relationships, and so on.”
He has advice for aspiring chefs: “Forget everything you’ve ever seen on TV. Come with a passion and dedication to the craftsmanship it entails. Understand that it comes down a bumpy road full of long hours and late nights. If you are truly committed and can endure all of this, then the rewards and possibilities are endless.”
About Saigon Sisters
Since its first days as a kiosk in Chicago’s French Market in 2009, Saigon Sisters has grown steadily. In addition to their French Market location they have restaurants at 567 W Lake Street and in Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Their food has earned several awards including: Reader’s Choice: Eat Out Awards (2011), Chicago Magazine’s 50 Best Sandwiches in Chicago (2012), Chicago Magazine’s Best New Restaurant (2011), Time Out’s Critic’s Pick (2012), Open Table’s Diner’s Choice (2012), Michelin Guide Recommended (2012) (2013), CS Magazine MODERN LUXURY’s Best New Hidden Gem – Secret Spots, Zagat Rated “Excellent” and ZAGAT’s Noteworthy Newcomer for “Top Vietnamese Restaurant”.