Eight years ago, Lena Trang came to the United States with nothing. Six years ago, she was a dishwasher and prep cook at a restaurant. Five years ago, a culinary student.

Now, she’s the winner of “Chopped,” a very popular show on the Food Network.

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“When I arrived here, I knew only my husband. I did not have anybody else. My whole family and friends are in Vietnam. Today, I have hundreds of people watching me at a watch party and it is a feeling that I’ve never thought that I would have. I feel proud, I feel love, I feel blessed, and it’s wonderful.”

Trang and three other chefs were challenged to make an appetizer, entree, and dessert using truffles and other mystery items.

“I made scalloped dumplings, truffle teriyaki steak and eggs, and truffle strawberry pie,” says Trang.

Her skill set is undeniable, but the key ingredient to her success is the purpose behind her cooking. Trang says both her mother and aunt were victims of domestic violence. 

“I was young at the time, and I did not know how to help them. I did not know what to do, but now that I understand the situation, I want to help those who were in the same situation as my mom and my aunt.”

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Her catering business, Lena’s Asian Kitchen, opened in April 2022, and it now employs survivors of domestic abuse or human trafficking.

“At first, we started with 12 items on the menu and open two days a week. We are now open four days a week, but soon we are going to be open every day. At first, we started with only one employee and myself, but now, we have five employees.”

Some of our viewers may already be familiar with Lena. We profiled her a year ago when she stepped up to cook for the family of Nhung Truong. A Vietnamese woman who was attacked and left paralyzed. Lena stepped up.

“I definitely wanted to help her with what I have, which is food. It’s been a year, but we are still sending food for her and her family. Lena has tasted some of life’s bitter moments, but also some of the sweetest.

To the young woman who started the pursuit of the American dream nearly a decade ago she says, “It will happen, just don’t give up.”

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