MissChu: Dumplings not Detention Centres

Here is a beautiful TEDx talk someone from the IBYFM community has shared with us, where Nahji Chu discusses her Vietnamese food project: MissChu. It chimes so well with IBYFM’s main aim: to add to the asylum seeker discussion through creative means. For Chu, this involves developing new ways for politics to be talked about at the dinner table, in particular, the serving of fresh, fast, Vietnamese food with a side of art and politics. This is central to Chu’s enterprise due to her personal experience as a refugee.

Chu came to Australia as a refugee in the late 1970s after her family fled the Pathet Laos Regime and spent years in various refugee camps. Today, she is one of the country’s most successful business leaders. Chu’s brand of Vietnamese food outlets gained swift popularity in Sydney and Melbourne, leading to plans for more outlets in Australian capital cities, as well as the recent international expansion into London. In 2013 MissChu turned over $20 million dollars.

We love the passion Chu brings to her business, and her insistence on delivering food that sparks conversation, plays with common tropes and stereotypes, and incorporates creativity at every level of service. Chu recently collaborated with General Pants Co. on a design of pop-art styled t-shirts emblazoned with DUMPLINGS NOT DETENTION CENTRES and, as the above video shows, has also been working with graphic designers and video artists.


“The T-shirts were about bringing awareness to the whole debate, which has been having some really negative press,” says Chu. “I was like, ‘Well I’ve lived in this country for 36 years, and I’ve tried to make being a refugee cool, and now it’s getting worse and being a refugee is looked down upon’. So I thought, let’s make it funky again, how do I do this? Make a T-shirt and make it pop” (from interview with Francesca Carter, 2013, in Lifestyle)

We haven’t had the opportunity to sample some of MissChu’s food yet–have you?