D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: Gene Street in Vietnam

Frying monkey and dog wasn't even the strangest part of his trip.

Gene Street, cooking between Buddha and Bill Clinton.
Gene Street, cooking between Buddha and Bill Clinton.

By his own account — writing in D Magazine in 2010 — Gene Street only ever had one great idea. He rode the chicken-fried steak and the casual dining pioneer it spawned (The Black-Eyed Pea) to making a fortune with a restaurant empire (Consolidated Restaurant Operations, owners of Cantina Laredo, Good Eats, and III Forks, among others).

So of course it makes sense that when he trekked to Vietnam years later he’d barge into kitchens in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, frying whatever meat he found. The chicken-fried monkey was OK. The dog came out better.

Street wrote about his Asian adventures in the November 2002 issue of D. It’s one of the 40 greatest we’ve ever published. You’ll want to read the whole thing, as it involves not only discussions of unique culinary fare but also run-ins with the Vietnamese police and blonde German twins eager for Street to show them whether everything really is bigger in Texas.

We checked in with him to see what he’d like to say about what he’s been up to in the years since this story was published. I was hoping he might share yet another colorful anecdote involving exotic foods and/or women. Alas, this is all we got:

Gene Street retired from Consolidated Restaurant Operations in 2006. Since then he has been watching his kids get a grip on life and working on a few new restaurant concepts he will open when the time is right.

So we’ll just have to be satisfied reading about his bygone glory days.