Bánh mì, equity, sustainability are on the menu at Bé Ù

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Uyên Lê honors the Vietnamese food she grew up eating while striving to pay her employees a living wage and feeding the community. Photo courtesy of Uyên Lê.

Uyên Lê says her aim at Bé Ù is to serve fresh and flavorful food at affordable prices in a rent-controlled neighborhood, and to create good working conditions with professional opportunities. With a background in community organizing, Lê worked in the labor rights and economic justice movements in Los Angeles before entering culinary school. 

In this edition of “In the Weeds,” Lê says, “I’ve always been attracted to the business of food and the folks who work in the restaurant industry. It’s an area that is so pervasive all the time because people have to eat several times a day, and they make choices about what they put into their own bodies and also where they spend their money.” 

Wanting to continue with her interest in social justice, she brought those values to her restaurant. She says that restaurants have a large role to play in reimagining sustainability and workers’ rights with many opportunities to grow this industry and increase the understanding of the consuming public. With the restaurant just a year old, she admits to still trying to strike a balance between using fresh ingredients and making food affordable.

“There is a reason I don’t call my food traditional or authentic because I think food always evolves and food in Vietnam is evolving,” says Uyên Lê. “It’s not something you put in a museum.” Photo courtesy of Uyên Lê.

Upon opening her own restaurant, Lê says, “I wanted to continue with my lifelong pursuit of social and economic justice but wanted a small enough venue to meet my values and put my arms around.” Photo courtesy of Uyên Lê.

With a background in city planning and economic development, Uyên Lê has managed to build a business based on equity and sustainability at Bé Ù. Photo courtesy of Uyên Lê.