After many months in his battle with cancer, Virginia Tech’s beloved Thai Huynh passed away early the morning of Friday, Jan. 10.
Huynh was loved by many within the Hokie community. As the head teppanyaki chef at Origami restaurant in Turner Place, Huynh loved cooking for students and was a familiar face known to many who stopped by Origami regularly for sushi and a friendly smile. Huynh was also loved by all who had the opportunity to work alongside him.
Gabe Petry, food production manager in Dining Services, met Huynh long before either of them came to Virginia Tech. In the early years of what ended up being a two-decade-long friendship, Huynh’s selfless character quickly became evident.
“Thai was, probably unknowingly, the most influential person (to) me at this time in my life ... I already owed him a lot but he never took anything other than a smile and a handshake,” Petry said.
Huynh and Petry shared many memories while cooking meals together in the evenings after long shifts spent at the steakhouse and sushi bar restaurant they worked at. No matter what the pair was doing, whether it was cooking in the evenings, working, vacationing or teaching culinary camp, Huynh’s kind nature made any time spent together extremely meaningful.
“Thai always encouraged me to do something new or that I was unsure about,” Petry said. “He had a way of taking you under wing and before you know it, you are in deep to something new. Thai knew how to make anything you can think of enjoyable.”
Huynh’s character in friendship was just the same in his work as well. Whether it be a close friend or a student whose dinner he was cooking, he always remained authentic and light-hearted with those he was around.
“Watching Thai interact with other people is the most entertaining education I ever experienced,” Petry said. “He knew how to ‘act-up’ just enough and genuinely hang on every word to connect with you and was contagiously fun no matter what.”
Similarly, John Barrett, assistant director at Turner Place, spoke of the positive influence Huynh had on every person he interacted with. Huynh had a special inclination toward students and loved cooking for them daily. But, more than that, he was intentional in creating relationships with the students he cooked meals for.
“I think you could speak volumes of what Thai meant to the people that he provided meals to and still never touch but the surface of what he truly did,” Barrett said. “He wanted every guest to have the best possible experience that they could have. He was truly one of a kind, a person that had a big heart and truly cared about the people cooked for. It was amazing to watch him cook for the students. He was engaging, funny and interacted with the guests as to make them feel that they were part of the experience.”
The impact of Huynh’s kindness toward everyone around him will undoubtedly continue in Virginia Tech’s community for years to come. Huynh’s positivity and friendly nature is something that Origami could never forget.
“He always had a smile, and that is what I will miss the most,” Barrett said.
If you would like to donate to the Huynh family in remembrance of Thai, you can do so at https://www.gofundme.com/f/thai-and-joli-hyun-cancer-fight-fund.