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Tracie May Indulges in Delicious as Vietnamese Publicist and Foodie

Tracie May Indulges in Delicious as Vietnamese Publicist and Foodie

Tracie May made a name for herself in Los Angeles for 25 years as a luxury publicist and event planner leading hundreds of Opening Night parties, events and red carpets.

Then in an “Eat, Pray, Love” – inspired move, she decided to take a leap and move across the world.  

In 2020, she relocated to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and became the Senior Editor of Epicure Vietnam Magazine, the most prestigious culinary and hospitality publication in Asia.


FlavRReport.com on YouTube
FlavRReport.com on YouTube

Today we catch up with Tracie to talk about life in Vietnam.  The people, the culture, and of course the food.

Publicist Tracie May Indulges in Delicious at her role with Epicure Vietnam Magazine

Joe Winger: 

What’s the most important thing that you want to share during this conversation?

Tracie May: 

Don’t be afraid to take the leap of faith. Honestly, I took a massive leap of faith, uprooting my entire life.  

I had a big life in LA.  I was there for 25 years, and to take that leap of faith to relocate to Vietnam.  It was never even on my radar.

People thought that I was insane when I said I was doing this. It was not supposed to be for the long term. But the whole point is, you never know where opportunity is going to come. You don’t know what your future looks like, until you write your own story.

I am proof positive that anything is possible if you just take a risk for yourself and your happiness, because the energy or the universe will provide for you if you’re truthful, connected and really get specific about what you want.

Tracie May with Chef Eden Daus of Lesung, holding Epicure Vietnam Magazine
Tracie May with Chef Eden Daus of Lesung, holding Epicure Vietnam Magazine

Joe Winger:   

You are now the senior editor of Epicure Vietnam Magazine.  Tell me a bit about the magazine and your role.

Tracie May: 

It’s a really beautiful, glossy print publication. They also have online and social [media presence].

It’s available in every VIP lounge, every business lounge at every major hotel, airline and club lounge. It has a lot of subscribers. 

Focuses on culinary, luxury travel, hospitality, wine, chef profiles. [Food and beverage] business profiles as well as features on certain resort properties.

I was really lucky to [connect with] the publisher.  I sent her a bunch of my writing samples. I joined the magazine about 17 months ago. 

My main focuses are editing content, making sure the English is perfect, and dealing with editorial and the marketing teams.

But my favorite part is running the news section.  [It’s] basically my curation of what’s hot in [food & beverage] in Saigon and all over the world. 

I get to eat the best food all the time. 

The majority of the restaurants that we cover are very high-end, gorgeous, [food and beverage] in town. So I get to eat a lot of amazing food which is awesome. 

The food in Vietnam is extraordinary.

Joe Winger:

As a USA foodie, what’s a lesson you’ve learned about Vietnamese cuisine that you want the world to know about?

Tracie May: 

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned, and it is evident in my extreme weight loss of 75 pounds in 2 ½  years, is it’s whole real food.

They are not jacking up their cows and their pigs with hormones. Organic is actually a thing here. The quality of the food, it’s not processed crap in a box that is run by Monsanto.

Because of the climate here, Dalat, which is the region in Vietnam where most of the produce is grown, some of the most unbelievable tasting produce is grown there. 

The fruit is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. 

A watermelon is the sweetest, juiciest, delicious thing you’ve ever put in your mouth; and it’s available from every little fruit stand that is on Quốc Hương.

I walk to my local [stores] because I like to support locals here and have my little bag and pull my produce and all of it is grown on their farm, 

It’s just that’s how people eat here. There is no Kraft macaroni and cheese. There is no processed, boxed chemicals here. 

Because of that, the quality of the flavor profiles is so superior. 

So that is the biggest difference.

The reason why there’s such an obesity problem in the U.S. is the abundance of processed food.

[Here in Vietnam], even fast food.  We’ve got McDonald’s and Popeye’s and KFC. But the taste of a Big Mac or a Whopper with cheese is far different than anything you can get in the States because of the quality of the meat that they use.

That is the biggest difference of why Vietnam is so globally recognized as such a foodie hub.

Joe Winger: 

You’re doing a lot to bring attention to Vietnam as a foodie hub.

Tracie May: 

I was the guest judge on Top Chef Vietnam, and I was the guest judge on the finale of this show called Super Cake, Banh Xeo, which was basically, Build a beautiful cake. And these Vietnamese national TV, reality shows which showcase culinary.

So that was fun.

Joe Winger: 

If somebody from the United States comes to Vietnam for a few days, from a food point of view, what must we try? 

Tracie May: 

Saigon is incredibly vibrant and there’s too much to do.  For the best Vietnamese food hands down It is in district one, which is basically the city. 

Mạ Quán 
Mạ Quán

Mạ Quán 

It’s gorgeous. A restaurant with Vietnamese cuisine that focuses on historical dishes from the imperial city of Huế to the north and in Hanoi to the Mekong Delta and is visually stunning.

The flavors are unbelievable. For sure if you want to eat an extraordinary Vietnamese meal, that’s a place, hands down, highly recommended. 

Lesung
Lesung

Lesung SGN 

In the last 3 months I was introduced to Malaysian cuisine.  Spicy,  sambal based, chili based. The chef / owner is a fine dining chef, who’s a celebrity chef here. He wanted to get back to his roots and he opened this restaurant that’s very reasonably priced.  Fine dining, but in a casual setting, not expensive and truly authentic Malaysian cuisine.   All of his grandmother’s recipes and it’s home cooking at its best. That is a must go. 

Noriboi Omakase

Noriboi Omakase

If you love sushi, Noriboi is an extraordinary omakase restaurant in Thảo Điền, in the town where I live. 12 to 18 tastings of caviar, and the best uni flown in from Japan, and extraordinary toro, and you can’t imagine how good, it’s insane.

Joe Winger: 

You took a very dramatic pivot a few years ago and it turned out so well. 

Tracie May: 

I knew that I had to make a change. I knew that I was unhappy.  Even though I had great friends and a great life and did really cool stuff in LA, I felt like I was just trapped in a hamster wheel.

I was bit by the “Eat Pray Love” bug. 

Decided that, life’s too short to be unhappy.

There is a big, wide, beautiful world out there. Why not explore it while I have the chance?

I happen to have family who live in Saigon, and we conspired together.

I sold my car, put everything in storage, all the paperwork, packed my two dogs and three suitcases and got on a plane.

The original plan was to hang out in Southeast Asia for three months.

Leave my stuff with my family, get a backpack and travel throughout Southeast Asia and go pray with some Buddhist monks.  Have my Tomb Raider moment in Angkor Wat in Cambodia and go do a lot of scuba diving.  Then three months later, go home [to the United States] and face the music. 

But COVID happened, my life shifted. So I stayed. 

I couldn’t have imagined a more incredible life that I’ve been able to curate for myself than I have been able to in Saigon.

Tracie May at Tet Lunar New Year 2024 party
Tracie May at Tet Lunar New Year 2024 party

Joe Winger: 

Your background is a world class publicist in North America.  Because of the pandemic, you went from a publicist to a “stay at home mom” figure.

Tracie May: 

I did, but I still had to pay my bills, right?

So I had a free place to stay because my family was paying the rent. When [my family] got stuck in the US during COVID, when Vietnam closed their borders, they got locked out for 10 months. 

Suddenly I’m a mother to 2 kids in an international school. I’ve got to take care of their three dogs, my two dogs, their villa, all their stuff, in a country that I didn’t know and a language that I didn’t speak.

It was all about pivoting.

At the time I had hot pink hair.  All the expat moms, they’ve got kids and they live in a compound because their husbands run Nike or Adidas or…[some huge company]

There’s me, this newbie from LA with my fuchsia hair riding my family’s electric bike with the kids on the back taking them to school.

The [expat Moms are] like, who and what is this? 

Originally I became the talk of the town. 

I live in a bubble, a little enclave within the city, it’s expat land. 

I really think in the beginning I made friends out of total pity.  Suddenly they were like, “Let’s take you to lunch.”  So there were several luncheons introducing me to society and I created my clan. 

The one thing that’s hard about here is that the expat life is very rotational because a lot of the families are on contract.

If you work at the consulate, you’ve got a 2-3 year contract. 

Once the contract is done, you’re back home. I don’t want to leave. 

So one of the hardest things about making really close friends here is that they leave. So it’s a lot of continual rotation.

I have friends who’ve been here for 14 years up to 35 years who felt the bug like me and decided no, this is where you want to be right now. This is a good place to be, but yeah, that’s basically how it happened.

Joe Winger: 

A minute ago, you used the phrase “talk of the town.”  Let’s dive deeper.

You’re getting huge growth on social media. Food and dining, lifestyle, travel in this genre. Your face is everywhere. Your voice is everywhere. Your name is everywhere. 

What’s it like living your life, when someone sees your face, name and recognizes you? 

Tracie May: 

It is bizarre. 

I have no idea how it happened, especially in Vietnam.  Local Vietnamese don’t speak a word of English. 

There’ve been so many times that I’m walking my dogs up my street or [I’m] on the back of a “Grab” bike, which is our version of Uber and they see me, look at my picture before and say:

 “Sorry, Madame. Are you Madam Tracy?”

And show me a picture of myself. 

I’m sure it’s due to doing TV appearances on Top Chef Vietnam and other major, national primetime TV shows here with millions of Vietnamese watching.

It’s bizarre, especially coming from Hollywood where all my focus has always been the promotion of others and the promotion of brands.

Suddenly I’m the [one being] promoted and I just find it really funny. But I’m grateful. 

Joe Winger: 

How has publicity changed from LA to Vietnam?

Tracie May: 

I wear a lot of hats here [in Vietnam].   I’ve become the “go to” event producer.

I was a pretty major event producer in the States and produced [around] 250 fashion shows in three continents around the world, a bunch of parties in LA, and red carpets.

There’s tons of talent in Vietnam.  So now I’m doing it for major Western companies who want a sprinkle of American or they want a real Western perspective for [their event], I’m the girl they call.

One of the events I produced was the 25th anniversary of the Sofitel Saigon Plaza Hotel

That was a huge event inviting every government official, major CEO, all of their massive VIPs. 

Tracie May with Artist Jerome Pichard
Tracie May with Artist Jerome Peschard

I’m actually about to produce another event with Sofitel for one of my clients. One of the most talented people I’ve ever met in my entire life, Jerome Peschard

He’s a French artist with the same story as me, except he got here, fell in love with Saigon and just never left .  He met his wife and has a bunch of kids.  He has become the most collected artist in Asia globally, for specifically pop art related to historic, historic Vietnamese French and machine and pop art and he does it all.  Composite art. 

I brokered a deal with Sofitel on June 21 in celebration of the 60 year anniversary of the Sofitel Hotels and Resorts global brand, their Diamond Jubilee.

We are doing a two month installation, exclusive installation of his works being some are 2.6 meters x 1. 5 meters  – large scale, which are going to be in the lobby as an installation in collaboration with the hotel.

It’s a massive thing, and they called me, so I’m really honored. 

I get to work with him every day and he’s a total rock star.

Tracie May living her best life in Vietnam

Joe Winger: 

What’s the theme at this point in your life?

Tracie May: 

The moral of the story is “Don’t be afraid to take the leap of faith.”

Joe Winger: 

It sounds like you crossed your fingers, closed your eyes and took the jump. 

Was there a big concern before taking that jump? How did that big concern work out for you?

Tracie May: 

It’s very personal.

The concern wasn’t about work. I knew that I could work internationally. I knew I could do PR online and still service clients abroad. No matter where you are in the world, the cream rises to the top and you will figure it out.

On a personal level in the sense that I have always been a serial monogamist. I had a really petrified, paralyzing fear of being alone.

The idea of being 50 and alone again, scared me. Having to start over again, scared me. 

What I’ve learned from that is, I have no problems dating. I have no issue being alone. I actually revel in it because my life is so public now. When I get to be in my underpants, watching Netflix with my two dogs, eating a ham and cheese on freshly baked sourdough baguette with some tomatoes and lettuce; and some truffle aioli from my friend’s company. That’s my happy place. 

That has been the biggest lesson that being alone is okay. Being alone is actually a good thing. 

I don’t need to have a partner or a marriage to justify and qualify who I am. I’m just fine on my own. 

Joe Winger: 

What are the ways to find you and follow you online? How do you want people to find you?

Tracie May: 

It’s all about the gram, right? My Instagram is @_TracieMay_  

Or you can find me as Tracie May on LinkedIn.

My Facebook work page May Wagner Public Relations, but I never check it because I never have time.

Joe Winger
Joe Wehinger (nicknamed Joe Winger) has written for over 20 years about the business of lifestyle and entertainment. Joe is an entertainment producer, media entrepreneur, public speaker, and C-level consultant who owns businesses in entertainment, lifestyle, tourism and publishing. He is an award-winning filmmaker, published author, member of the Directors Guild of America, International Food Travel Wine Authors Association, WSET Level 2 Wine student, WSET Level 2 Cocktail student, member of the LA Wine Writers. Email to: [email protected]
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