Alex C.



In 2019, I took a leap of faith and reopened 5ive Spice, previously a floundering Vietnamese restaurant that first opened in 2015. As a second-generation immigrant, born in Hong Kong and raised in NYC, my connection to Vietnam runs deep. I’ve been working in my family’s restaurants since I was fourteen, starting out as a dishwasher and server. I reopened 5ive Spice with my business partner, our culinary director Steve Cheng. I met Steve over a decade ago when he was working at the French-Vietnamese hotspot Indochine, where he served as their expediter of business for over thirty years. We visited other New York Vietnamese restaurants.

“It’s ok, but not what pho really is,” Steve commented. “Too much MSG and too watered down.”
“Shut up you hater” I laughed, asking if he could do better. In response, Cheng invited me over to his mom’s house for dinner. S

teve’s heritage, a blend of Vietnamese and Cambodian, played a pivotal role in shaping our culinary direction. The pho we serve in each 5ive Spice location stems from his mother’s original recipe. Our name comes from the five spices used to make our Pho: black cardamom, fennel, coriander, cinnamon, and star anise.

In 2018, we had an opportunity to travel with Steve’s boss, the owner of Indochine, to Vietnam for a culinary tour. It was on this trip that we fell in love with Vietnamese culture and that was the spark that we took back in our endeavor to bring authentic Vietnamese cuisine with a New York flair to the city.

Ultimately, 5ive Spice started as just two guys who were restaurant workers for most of their lives on a trip, learning how to do what we do compared to the industry through hands-on experience and figuring out the rest along the way.

Our journey has not been easy. In 2020, when the pandemic struck, we faced our biggest challenge yet, forcing us to temporarily close. But instead of retreating, we strengthened our commitment to the community by donating food to first responders, which we continued into 2021, catching the attention of Amy Chan, our Office and Events Manager, who I connected with at Barclays Center, and shares our affiliation with the AAPI community.

As we look ahead to AAPI month and beyond, we remain committed to our mission of spreading love through food. Whether it’s through special events, partnerships, or simply opening our doors to all who seek a taste of Vietnam, we’re excited to continue down this path together. After all, as I’ve found over the years, beauty lies in the simplicity of certain things—like a bowl of pho enjoyed with loved ones or a community coming together over a shared meal.

5ive Spice’s future plans include the launch of our new location in West Side Battery Park this summer, marking a new chapter in our story of resilience and reinvention. With every bowl of pho served, each sip of sparkling rose enjoyed, our story shows the power of what can happen when AAPI friends team up to follow their dreams of making it in America.