Inside D.C. entertainment

Correction:

This story originally reported that Le was 32 years old and born in 1979. We regret the error.

R.I.P. Toki Underground chef Thang Le (1980 – 2012)

February 16, 2012 - 12:29 PM
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(Facebook/Thang Le)

In this space, I was going to write about tonight's Vietnamese pop-up "Pho U" at Montserrat House. When he contacted me last week, Toki Underground chef Thang Le was excited to talk about the collaboration with Marvin chef James Claudio. But "Pho U" was postponed because, as Toki owner Erik Bruner-Yang confirmed to TBD, Le died earlier this week. Bruner-Yang said Le had been at Toki for six months, but declined to comment further, saying he wanted to respect the Le family's privacy.

Le and I weren't friends, not by the real definition of the word. We'd only met on a few occasions, and had one substantive conversation, at the Peregrine Espresso on 14th Street NW last month. It was windy and sunny that day, and he'd come from his apartment down the street. He told me about places where he'd worked — Komi, Hank's Oyster Bar, Iggy's in Singapore — and about his plans, such as starting a food truck with his brother.

Le had passion, and he was loved. I'd heard a lot about him, through mutual friends, before actually meeting him. They always referred to him as "du ma" — a Vietnamese insult that can also be a term of endearment — so when we finally met, I had to ask Le to remind me of his real name. (They'd given him that name over a decade ago, when he was an aspiring DJ, and it stuck.) The other night, some of those friends and I took a shot of Jameson in his honor. At 31, Thang Le left us too soon.

   
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(Facebook/Thang Le)
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