Tag: ATG Against The Grain Productions

Going Against The Grain: Christine Ha

Christine Ha Author Photo

Christine Ha is the first ever blind contestant and Season 3 Winner of the competitive amateur cooking show, MasterChef USA, on FOX with Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich. She defeated over 30,000 home cooks across America to secure the coveted MasterChef title, a $250,000 cash prize and a cookbook deal.

“The lady has an extraordinary palate, a palate of incredible finesse. She picks up hot ingredients, touches them and she thinks about this image on the plate. She has the most disciplined execution on a plate that we’ve ever seen. But the palate is where it’s just extraordinary. And honestly, I know chefs with Michelin stars that don’t have palates like hers.”–Chef Gordon Ramsay, MasterChef judge

“She’s kind of amazing.” –Joe Bastianich, restaurateur and MasterChef judge.

Christine also has a Master of Fine Arts from University of Houston’s nationally acclaimed Creative Writing Program. During her time there, she served as Fiction Editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts and is currently working on a memoir. Christine’s first cookbook, Recipes From My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food from the Winner of MasterChef Season 3 on FOX (Rodale), released on May 14, 2013. Since winning, she has made a guest appearance on the inaugural season of MasterChef Vietnam and travels across the country to give inspiring keynote addresses to audiences numbering in the hundreds. Christine lives in Houston, Texas and plans to open establishments both locally and abroad.

Full Name:
Christine Huyen Tran Ha
Los Angeles, California
Current City:
Houston, Texas
What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”
To follow your dreams in spite of what others tell you.
What made you decide to pursue a career in the food industry?
It’s my passion.
What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in this field?
Food is universal—it doesn’t matter what ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation you are or which political ideals you believe in.
What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?
Attaining the title of MasterChef and a Master of Fine Arts.  Both required a lot of effort and were some of the most challenging encounters I’ve had in my life, thus, some of the most rewarding.
What’s up next?
I will finish writing my memoir and get it published.  I would also love to eventually open my own establishment.  Lastly, I’d like to combine my two gifts and write about food.
Quote to live by: “Be bold.” —Gordon Ramsay to me on “MasterChef” Season 3
Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac): Sheep/goat and Taurus
Passionate about: Writing, reading, cooking, eating
Favorite food: Sushi, fries, Vietnamese eggrolls, NY-style pizza, southern fried chicken, noodle soup
Can’t live without: Love and empathy

Christine Ha’s Social Media Pages

As MasterChef USA 2012: facebook.com/MC3Christine | @MC3Christine

As food enthusiast: www.theblindcook.com | @theblindcook

As writer: www.christineha.com | @ChristineHHa

Visit to Uu Dam

Hi all,

Our volunteers visited Uu Dam orphanage in Hue this weekend and distributed foods, milk, treats and necessary supplies for them.  Our volunteers went to the Supermarket with the director and a few of the older children of the orphanage and let them pick whatever they needed for Uu Dam. We spent about $9M VND and gave  them $3M VND toward the Mid-Autumn festival for the children.  The total is approximately USD$580.
If you notice, the boy in the orange outfit on the left side is the baby boy we first met 6 years ago when we first visited Uu Dam.  He is now 7.  Our volunteers reported that all of the children are very good, well-mannered and appeared to be well-taken care of.
Uu Dam 9 1 2013 pic 1

Letter from Uu Dam Orphanage

Dear Aileen–
Has ATG family been doing well? Over here, the children have started school again. Looking at them happy and excited to go back to school makes me remember the time I was going to school very happy. Dearest Aileen, this is the newest member of Uu dam family. He is very lovely. Six days ago, when the whole Uu dam family was resting at lunch, nobody noticed that someone had quietly put this baby in the living room of Uu dam and left. After the lunch, PT went to wake the children up and discovered this baby sound asleep in the living room. At first, PT was scared and thought something bad had happened to him. So we held him and ran to the backroom and discovered he was breathing normally but wasn’t crying at all. He is very lovely and good looking. Look at him, PT could not hold back the tears. Each child is born with a destiny. He is very handsome and good, especially since he has not been crying at all during the last six days. PT guesses he is about two weeks old. He still has his umbilical cord.
In the occasion of the Vu Lan (Vietnamese Mother/Father’s Day), all members of the Uu Dam Family wish ATG a very full and meaningful season.
DSC02995 DSC02999

Chasing Dragonflies, Vietnamese Heritage Camp in Estes Park, CO


I can’t believe it almost a month since Heritage Camp ended. It was another memorable weekend filled with storytelling, music, family, friendship and sunny weather. Many thanks to all the Coordinators and Staff. Without you there would be no camp. I always look forward to returning to the mountains to learn about my birth culture, visit with old friends and make new ones.

This year’s camp theme was “Chasing Dragonflies.” We explored the Vietnamese creation story and other Vietnamese fairytales. The kids made dragonfly kites and Vietnamese spring rolls. It was so nice to have ATG’s very own Hue Dao Miner join us again. Hue worked with the kids to teach them a traditional Vietnamese dance. All the age groups performed with Hue at our Saturday night show.

“I went as a presenter and taught Vietnamese dance lessons and games to the middle school and high school children,” said Hue Dao Miner. “The kids are so bright! They learned their routines in an hour and performed it in a show for their parents. I choreographed and taught the middle schoolers a “múa nón” (hat dance), and the high schoolers a “vũ phiến” (fan dance). As you can tell in the following videos, they had a lot of fun performing them.”

Many thanks to Co-Director, Kristi Kremer, who put together a great camp with me this year. I will be returning as Co-Director for one more year. I’m happy to announce two new camp Co-Directors joining me, Veronica Thompson and Ethan.

Camp was extra special for me this year. My parents, Rick and Rita Rehberg, attended camp as guest presenters. It was so exciting to see my parents give a workshop on raising a multicultural adoptive family. Their 30 plus years of experience offered a new perspective to the family of campers just beginning their journey. Thank,s Mom and Dad.

Saturday night’s carnival and gala was so much fun. I had the honor to share the stage with fellow camper and adoptee Noelle Hemphill. ATG’s Hue Dao Miner joined me on stage again to announce the winners of our 2013 ATG Heritage Camp Scholarship Contest Winners. Our amazing counselors surprised us with a gorgeous candlelight dance. Our evening ended with a surprise dance party. This event will be official next year. Sometimes, you just need to dance!

See you next year!

Jared Rehberg and Noelle Hemphill perform Chasing Dragonflies


2013 VHC High School Fan Dance:

2013 VHC Middle School Hat Dance:

Going Against The Grain: Lani Love

Triple threat is just one way to describe this month’s Going Against the Grain spotlight. An ad woman by day, a DJ by night and a fashion blogger for Sugar Rock Catwalk, somewhere in between, Lani Nguyen proves you don’t have to pursue just one dream.

After a gig as an internet radio music director in Southern California, she started her adventures as a club DJ in New York City in 2007. There, she shadowed local DJs before finding the courage to play out on her own in 2009. Fast forward a few years, Lani now lives in Chicago and works as a senior strategist for one of the top global ad agencies, Leo Burnett. She also sets up regular gigs at some of the best events and spots around Chicago, as well as DJ-ing for SXSW, New York Fashion Week and other high profile events around the country.

With a strong work ethic and a lot of passion, Lani is proving you can do it all!


Full Name: 
Lani Nguyen (aka Lani Love)

Huntington Beach, CA

Current City:
Chicago, IL


What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”
To challenge the status quo and create your own path

What made you decide to pursue advertising and DJing?  
I’m insane!  I’m kidding.  Both were natural interests of mine, and hard work has never failed me. I pursued advertising because it spoke to my practical sensibility and my creative tendencies.  Advertising is art with a business purpose.  And as a music enthusiast, I dreamed of DJing all throughout college and eventually pursued it after I established my footing in advertising.

What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in this field? 
Luckily, there are quite a few positive Asian American stereotypes – good at math, studious, hard working, mild mannered, so I can’t say that I’ve faced any major challenges as a result of being Asian American.  But I have learned that one of the best things I can do to support diversity in an industry that is lacking is to be visible and accessible to young Asian Americans so they’re aware of all possible career paths.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?  
Being comfortable in my own skin.  Unfortunately much of my adolescence was spent wishing I was a tall, lanky blonde.  Then one day towards the end of college, I woke up (and grew up) and embraced being different.  It’s allowed me to follow my heart with confidence, resulting in professional and personal accomplishments beyond what I ever dreamed for myself.

What’s up next?  
I have a general idea, but for the first time in my life, I don’t have a detailed road map.  I’m just focused on developing my skill set and living life and seeing where that takes me.

Quote to live by: 
“The easiest way to be instantly happy is to make somebody else happy.” – Deepak Chopra

Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac): Ox & Gemini
Passionate about: Sustainable living
Favorite food: Noodle soup (Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, I love them all!)
Can’t live without: A nice pair of glasses, because I’m blind as a bat

Orphanage Update: Letter from Uu Dam regarding our gift on International Children Day

Dear ATG family,

Two days ago, PT and the children of Uu Dam went shopping for food and supplies with your volunteer using the $10 million VND that ATG sent to support Uu Dam.  All members of Uu Dam truly appreciate ATG very much.

Three children of Uu Dam have finished the high school graduation exams.  They did very well on the exams and hope to earn high marks.  They are now focusing on studying for the University entrance exam.  All the ATG’s love given to these children for all these years will motivate them to study harder on the next University entrance exam.

On the International Children Day, which is also the eighth Anniversary of the day Uu Dam was formed, Uu Dam joined forces with the local college students to organize a celebration.  PT would like to send some pictures to the ATG family with all of our love and deep gratitude.  We pray that God, Buddha will grant blessing to all ATG members and your loved ones with much health and peace.


QTTN        QTTN2      QTTN3     QTTN4   QTTN5     QTTN8    QTTN9     QTTN6    QTTN7     QTTN10    QTTN11      QTTN12    QTTN13   QTTN14

Going Against The Grain: Tanya Pinto



A global citizen, Tanya was born in India, raised in Dubai and Australia and then moved to Dallas, Texas, after graduating with First Class Honors from Curtin University in 1998. From 1999 until 2012, Tanya worked in Brand Management at The Richards Group. Her fast-track career encompassed a diverse range of accounts such as Travelocity, Nokia and Children’s Medical Center. Today, Tanya divides her time between her own consulting firm, “Shakti Consulting” and “Baal Dan”, (which means “Donation to Children”) the US 501c3 charity she founded in 2006. For over seven years, Tanya almost single-handedly ran Baal Dan with no staff and while working full-time. Baal Dan has raised over $850,000 in just seven years through Tanya’s efforts and that of countless volunteers and the charity has provided aid to almost 3,000 children.  Tanya’s reputation as an innovative and dedicated social entrepreneur has received both national and international attention. Recognition for her work includes: Curtin University Australia’s prestigious humanitarian leadership award, “The John Curtin Medal” (2011), Harvard University’s Women’s Empowerment Conference “Women of the Year Award” (2010), and the Sri-Sri Ravi Shankar Award for “Uplifting Human Values” (2007). She has been a featured speaker at Harvard, TEDxSMU and other conferences. An accomplished and inspiring speaker, Tanya never fails to move audiences with her passion for her work with vulnerable children. Tanya is based in Dallas, Texas, but travels extensively in the US and globally for her work. Follow Tanya Pinto on Twitter: @TanyaPinto

Full Name:

Tanya Pinto


Born in India and grew up in Dubai and Australia

Current City:

Dallas, Texas



What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”

Going against the grain means having the courage to stand out and stand up for what you believe – no matter how hard the path.

What made you decide to pursue a career in the non-profit industry?

I did not really choose to go into the nonprofit industry. I felt I had a calling to help children in need so I guess it chose me!

What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in this field?

People want stereotype me or compartmentalize the work I do. Sometimes people think all I care about is children in India. I care about protecting and helping vulnerable children everywhere. It is just that I decided to focus for a few years on starting my work in India. This year my charity will expand globally to help children in other parts of Asia, Africa and Haiti.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?

Building a school for 150 children that has completely transformed a very poor, rural area in India. The school is the lifeline for hundreds of people and will change future generations.

What’s up next? My work is going global!

Quote to live by: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Mother Teresa

Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac): Snake & Libra

Passionate about: Trying new things!

Favorite food: Thai Green Curry (Vegetables) with Jasmine Rice

Can’t live without: My cup of tea in the morning!

“We All Have a Story…” Recapping the 2nd Annual Groundbreakers Speak

DALLAS, TX – In honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, seven trailblazing Asian Americans told their personal stories about their paths to success at Against The Grain Productions’ 2nd Annual Groundbreakers Speak event on Saturday May 11, 2013. Surrounded by the beautiful pieces at The Crow Collection of Asian Art in Downtown Dallas, more than 100 guests packed into the museum’s main gallery to enjoy champagne, hors d’oeuvres and art before settling in to listen to each speaker’s TED-inspired personal presentation.  After sharing their diverse perspectives, speakers joined together as a panel to answer questions and cover hard-hitting issues about identity, cultural barriers, motivation and solutions to nurture leadership in the community. Imparting their insight, there were moments both humorous and poignant. The event concluded with a unique half hour where guests got to interact with speakers one-on-one.

The goal of the afternoon was to give people of all ages a chance to hear and meet influential leaders. It was also about empowering individuals to realize their potential. President/Founder and event moderator Tammy Nguyen Lee said, “Groundbreakers Speak was created to fulfill a need and is unlike most any other event that ATG does. It’s meant to be more intimate and engage with people on a personal level, to create meaningful conversation, provoke deep thought and spark serious leadership. We’re trying to give people a glimpse into who they can be and what we are capable of becoming as a community.”

It was a rewarding and memorable day for our speakers as well. Here’s what they are saying, as they continue to motivate and inspire others to go Against The Grain:

Former Dallas Cowboy and the first Vietnamese player in the NFL, Dat Nguyen: “There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, But you have to put time and effort in order to gain an edge. It’s all about attitude.”

Director of Education at The Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dr. Karin Oen: “Maybe part of our goals in our generation is to contribute and build to create visibility across the new border whether you choose to be in the arts or entertainment.”

Vice President of Programming, Brand Integration at HGTV and DIY Network, Kent Takano: “Be prepared for the opportunity… find something you really want to do, because if you didn’t enjoy doing whatever, you’re not going to be good at it.”

Founder and CEO of Fur Face Boy, Hai Mai: “I hope my words, thoughts and passions could make the slightest difference in someone’s life. I know that the words that everyone spoke of their life definitely sparked emotions for me.”

Emmy-nominated journalist, host and KHOU news anchor, Lily Jang: “What a wonderful experience to share, learn and inspire all at the same time. We all have a story.. and ATG Productions allowed me to tell mine. I’m grateful for this experience to be among some amazing trailblazers. Can’t wait to come back!”

Lawyer, advocate and politician, Richard Jung: “Instead of being afraid to lose face, be courageous enough to make a face and make face in the direction that you want.. because you have qualities and characteristics that are going to help you succeed.”

Founder of Baal Dan Charities, Tanya Pinto: “It was an honor to be part of this event as a panelist. The sheer talent and tenacity of the speakers featured is a testament to the achievements of the Asian American citizens of Texas!”

Video clips of each speaker will be available on ATG’s YouTube Page.

ATG Against The Grain Productions, a Dallas-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, promotes Asian American cultural awareness through compelling media projects and raises funds for international orphanages. In addition to hosting outreach events, it also awards an annual scholarship to exemplary Asian American student artists and leaders. ATG produced the feature documentary, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, which has screened at over a dozen film festivals nationwide and received the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the Vietnamese International Film Festival and the Documentary Audience Choice Award from the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival. For more information, visit www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com or www.TheBabylift.com.


Words of Praise

“In a few words; it was one of the best speaking engagements I’ve attended; ‘Great life stories on self motivation and powerful accomplishments.’ – David Rico of BB&T Bank

“Uber Dallas wants to thank ATG for allowing us to be apart of this wonderful event. The Groundbreakers Speak event was truly an enlightening experience. From the beautiful setting itself to the panel discussion, all were able to get a deeper understanding of the issues past and present facing the Asian American community and the path to future growth. We look forward to future partnerships with Tammy and the ATG team!” – Leandre of Uber Dallas


Dallas Morning News: Asian pioneers’ stories worth sharing


l to r, Dat Nguyen, Karin Oen, Kent Takano, Ha Mai, Lily Jang, Richard Jung and Tanya Pintoat the Groundbreakers Speak event at the Crow Collection.
l to r, Dat Nguyen, Karin Oen, Kent Takano, Ha Mai, Lily Jang, Richard Jung and Tanya Pintoat the Groundbreakers Speak event at the Crow Collection.



Deborah Fleck


Published: 15 May 2013 11:12 PM

Updated: 16 May 2013 11:25 AM


Dat Nguyen was often told he was too small to play football. Yet he was the first Vietnamese-American in the NFL. He was drafted by the Cowboys and said he couldn’t believe he was playing with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.

“There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big,” said the ESPN sportscaster. “But you have to put time and effort in order to gain an edge. It’s all about attitude.”

Nguyen was one of seven panelists who shared their journeys at Groundbreakers Speak: A Conversation With Asian American Movers and Shakers. Saturday’s event was sponsored by Against The Grain Productions and held at the Crow Collection in Dallas. Tammy Nguyen Lee, founder of ATG, moderated the discussion.

Kent Takano, a vice president for HGTV and DIY Network, said he never expected to watch television for a living. In an acting class, he met someone in television who helped him land an internship. Takano’s been in television ever since.

Karin Oen, director of education at the Crow Collection, is passionate about building community through art institutions. UT Arlington graduate Ha Mai carved a path from design studio work to Fur Face Boy, his independent apparel line. Lily Jang said she loves what she does as a television journalist in Houston. Lawyer, advocate and politician Richard Jung joked that he wanted to be Nguyen, but admitted he found his calling in immigration law and helping others.

Tanya Pinto left a large advertising agency to start Baal Dan Charities, a nonprofit helping children around the world. She also runs her own firm, Shakti Consulting.

Nguyen Lee said each of the panelists “put fear aside to follow their passion.” This is her second Groundbreakers event, which she holds in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Visit againstthegrainproductions.com.

Asia World Media: Asian Celebrity Groundbreakers Speak 2013, Featuring Dat Nguyen, Kent Takano, Lily Jang And More


Asian Celebrity Groundbreakers Speak 2013, Featuring Dat Nguyen, Kent Takano, Lily Jang And More

By Asia World Media

Left to Right: Kent Takano, Tanya Pinto, Karin Oen, Dat Nguyen, Tammy Nguyen Lee, Lily Jang, Ha Mai, Richard Jung

In honor of Asian American Heritage Month, Tammy Nguyen Lee of Against The Grain Productions (ATG) and Amy Lewis Hofland of the Crow Collection of Asian Art Museum partnered up to host the 2nd Annual Groundbreakers Speak: A Conversation with Movers and Shakers in Dallas, TX. The family-friendly event brought together an amazing and diverse panel of Asian American professionals and celebrities, including Dat Nguyen (ESPN Radio Host & Former NFL/Dallas Cowboy Linebacker), Kent Takano (Executive Producer of Branded Entertainment for HGTV), Richard Jung (Attorney/Advocate/Politician), Tanya Pinto (Founder of Baal Dan Charity), Karin Oen (Director of Education at the Crow Collection of Asian Art), Ha Mai (Founder/CEO of Fur Face Boy) and Lily Jang (TV Host and News Anchor at KHOU). Each speaker has a unique experience to share his/her inspiring, personal and success story.

Over 100 guests crowded into the Crow’s Bronze Circle Room surrounded by exquisite works of art from China, Japan, and India. While enjoying champagne and dessert, guests have the special opportunity to engage with Asian American movers and shakers on important issues affecting the Asian American community.

“Being a groundbreaker has to do with pushing asides fears and embracing new challenges, ” said Richard Jung, managing partner of Jung Ko, PLLC. A passionate advocate for the Asian American community, Richard Jung believed, “As Asian Americans, we must overcome the cultural inhibitions about standing out and standing our ground. Our elders, our children, our communities need leaders who willing to stand out and stand up for their interests.”

Elsewhere Dat Nguyen’s speech at NFL and Dallas Cowboy’s Day was pretty legendary, giving the other amazing speech a run for its money. An inspiration to many Asian NFL enthusiast, Dat Nguyen is the first Vietnamese American to play in the NFL as a Dallas Cowboy linebacker during the late 1990s. After a successful career in the NFL, Dat Nguyen is currently with Sports talk Radio at ESPN San Antonio. Dat Nguyen articulate, “I would like [for you] to walk away from the event knowing don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, but you have to put time and effort in order to gain an edge. It’s all about attitude!”

“Everyone can be a groundbreaker – they simply have to figure out what their unique talent is and then follow that passion to create something, … Then watch the magic unfold, ” said Tanya Pinto, Founder of Baal Dan Charity.