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In memoriam: Thai Huynh, chef with Dining Services

Thai Huynh passed away on Jan. 10, 2020, with his wife Joli Michelle Wade Huynh by his side, a year after being diagnosed with cancer. Huynh had served as a chef for Dining Services since 2012.

Huynh was born on April 18, 1972 in Vietnam and came to the United States as a toddler. He lived for several years in the New River Valley before his family moved to San Diego, California. He later returned to southwest Virginia to attend college and start his culinary career.

“Thai had a gift for making people feel comfortable and his ever-present smile provided a sense of warmth and comfort to the campus,” said Ted Faulkner, director of Dining Services. “His sheer presence helped build community and provided a sense of belonging to the students and staff at this institution.”

Huynh was hired three months after the launch of Turner Place in Lavery Hall as the senior teppanyaki chef at Origami, a Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar, where he cooked on a large iron griddle in front of guests.

“He put his heart and soul in Origami. Thai had a real following with our students and when alumni were back on campus, they’d often stop by to see him,” said John Barrett, assistant director for Turner Place. “He was beloved, he was always able to make you smile and laugh. He touched a lot of lives.”

Turner Place offers full-service teppanyaki meals by reservation on Thursday and Friday nights and Huynh was a favorite with large groups like sororities, athletic teams, and faculty events.

“Whenever I sought to introduce someone to Virginia Tech’s Dining, asking for Thai Huynh’s presence was top on my list.  Thai knew the art of hospitality, always helping people feel known, cared for, and important,” said Frank Shushok, interim vice president for student affairs at Virginia Tech. “His generous spirit and commitment to students is deeply missed by me and so many others.”

Huynh also developed many friendships with faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Chemistry where his wife serves as the Graduate Program Coordinator. In the local foodservice community, Huynh was a mentor to young chefs, university staff, and the middle-school kids who attended Culinary Camp on campus each summer. 

Huynh is survived by his wife of 17 years, Joli, parents Truc and Nhuy Huynh, brother and sister-in-law Visva and Stephanie Huynh, along with his adoring aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephew, in-laws, and friends.

A celebration of Huynh’s life will be held on Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Great Road on Main, located at 100 West Main Street in Christiansburg, Virginia. Friends and family are welcome between 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests you can honor Huynh’s memory by making a donation to Hospice of the Piedmont, https://www.hopva.org, or by contributing to your favorite charity on his behalf.