We had the good fortune of connecting with Crystal Nguyen and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Crystal, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I was fortunate enough to live in New York City for 7 amazing years and during that time I dined at plenty of fancy restaurants full of rotating menus, fresh farmers market produce and best of all: chef selected charcuterie boards. At the time, I was working in media (I still work in media full time, ha!) and got to enjoy endless amounts of business meals at places my bank account definitely could not afford. But with that opened my tiny world to fine dining and charcuterie boards that, I learned, made me very happy. I found myself hoarding cheese from D’Agostino in NYC and making makeshift boards in my 400 sq ft. studio for me and my friends.

In late 2016, I eventually rerooted myself back in Houston, TX and found myself missing that little wooden board filled with surprises, none that I picked, but all that I loved. I visited every major and minor grocery store there was in Houston, searching for those flavors I was missing and aiming to make the perfect board for myself, my friends and my family. After numerous holidays and get togethers, I became the notorious charcuterie queen – always showing up to parties with the spread that everyone wanted. From there, I realized there was an untapped market in Houston that I could help fill – at home grazing. So in 2019, I kicked off Cultured, got food certified and started selling pre-made boards and grazing tables to those in and around Houston.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
My mother once said to me: Con (‘my child’ in Vietnamese), try to make something out of nothing. That’s all she knew coming to America in 1978 as a refugee from Vietnam. She had no bank account, she had no car, she didn’t even know the language. But she tried to make something out of the nothing that she had.

I was fortunate enough to attend a 4 year private university, receive a degree in marketing and move on to start a career in NYC. I did as I was told, I made the grades I needed to, I landed a corporate job and I received a paycheck every 2 weeks that paid the bills.

But quickly I realized I was craving something a little more creative and something a little more challenging. I was good at my full time job. I succeeded, I was recognized at work but I still wanted something outside of that. When my passion for food and art merged, I realized this was it. The goal for Cultured was never to be my full time job. I enjoy what I do but I’m lucky enough to have a hobby that transformed into a business. 2020, a pandemic year also known as the year of small businesses – numerous other ‘charcuterists’ emerged. It’s a very competitive industry now. I remember when I could count how many there were on 1 hand. But I don’t let that deter me, I utilize Cultured as a hobby, to exercise my art, to motivate me and challenge me. I love that what I can build and provide for someone brings joy to them and their loved ones.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
FOOD, duh! Houston is such a melting pot when it comes to food. First things first, you need to plan every meal for the weekend. We would have to get Korean BBQ one night for dinner, Bori has been my current favorite spot. North Italia or Paulie’s for a solid pasta dish and a fancy steak night at either Pappas or Steak 48. Houston has a plethora of breweries, I’d plan to grab a beer at 8th wonder, Holler or Platypus. A MUST would be fajitas for 2 at El Tiempo or Lupe Tortilla and wash it down with a nice cold Michelada (Connie’s is my favorite).

When the weather is obedient, a nice bar with outdoor seating and good music is enticing. Little Woodrow’s, Moonshine Deck or Down the Street are fun spots.

Lastly, the food hall scene has been phenomenal in Houston. Railway Heights has to have a visit. It has everything you’d ever want, aguas frescas, cajun food, flower shop, candle shop, plants – AMAZING.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Whole-heartedly, my mom. I would not be anywhere close to where I am today in my personal life or my professional life if it weren’t for her. She showed me what hard work looked like, being an immigrant from another country, not speaking English fluently but still managing to start multiple small businesses throughout my upbringing. She most definitely has passed down the business gene to me (and my sisters) and I am forever grateful.

Website: www.culturedboards.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/culturedboards

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CulturedBoards713

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCc61TWjDRhm5-VycU796C3w

Other: TikTok: @culturedboards Email: CulturedBoards@gmail.com

Image Credits
Charcuterie Cups photo: @alimintree (Photographer: Ali Minetree) All other photos: EC Films Branding https://www.facebook.com/Ecfilmsweddings/; Photographer: Kay Campusano

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutHTX is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.