Cover Story


The Joy of Dressing (and plating) Up with Jessica Nguyen

7 Minute Read
The Joy of Dressing (and plating) Up with Jessica Nguyen

It seems everything Jessica Nguyen touches turns into a banquet of colour, beauty, flavour and aesthetic glory. And we always have room for more. This marketing maven turned digital sensation has garnered devoted followers since she turned a humble love for cooking into a virtual recipe vault on Instagram earlier this year.

Jess swans around the kitchen like a modern goddess in flowing dresses, punchy prints and charming silhouettes while live-streaming to over 50,000 onlookers. But she never fails to serve up some all-important realism and authenticity to the table, too, reminding us that improvisation and patience are the fundamentals of home entertaining and spring style curating.

Jess exudes verve, style and playfulness in her kitchen ephemera and loud wardrobe mainstays. Think gown-like, printed dresses, artfully painted cheeks and charming crockery. Today, the digital doyenne walks us through her kitchen (and wardrobe) to explore the divine synergy between food and fashion, and the art of translating your off-duty passion into a full-time occupation. If you’ve doted over her table-dressing, or wondered what the recipe is for forging your unconventional career idea, pull up a seat and dig in.

How I look to myself influences how I feel and it's a reflection of my personality.

Bernadette – Linda One Sleeve Silk Satin Mini Dress. @jessica_nguyen_

Bernadette – Linda One Sleeve Silk Satin Mini Dress

Bernadette – Linda One Sleeve Silk Satin Mini Dress. @jessica_nguyen_

Bernadette – Linda One Sleeve Silk Satin Mini Dress

How does your personal style come into play in the kitchen? 

When it comes to cooking in the kitchen, I still try to dress right up. I used to work in an office – in the beauty industry, with a background in marketing and PR – so i’m used to getting up in the morning, getting ready, commuting and frocking up. My career has now completely changed. Especially in lockdown, it’s important to get ready and put on something new and different to put on for the day. And ideally it’s something fun.

I’ve fallen victim to staying in sweats all day and getting stuck in that rut. So, while I know other people who might not be WFH-ing right now, this might sound frivolous, but putting on a dress changes my mood, sets me up for work mode and makes me feel confident (even if other people can’t see me). How I look to myself influences how I feel and it’s a reflection of my personality.

I have fun with clothes. I love my classic basics like tops and jeans, but generally, I try to dress up and wear lots of prints and colours. Life is too short to wear boring clothes, especially right now. I wore a dress to the market the other day just because.

How has your career trajectory and past work experiences shaped the life you lead today? Do you have any sage advice for the Harrolds reader pining to turn their passion project into a proper hustle? 

I was made redundant in my previous role back in March. In the midst of the first lockdown, I was trying to find a job and figure out what to do next after 10 years in the beauty industry. There was this perfect storm with everyone being in lockdown and needing recipe inspiration and content ideas for their next at-home dinner or date night.

It’s something I’ve always been passionate about but never did it as a job. On the weekends, I’d share recipes I loved or what I’d been eating with the community around me. They knew I loved food and recipe-making. When I was stuck at home, I just wanted to have fun and chill out and do everything I’d longed to do when I didn’t have the luxury of time. From there, I wanted to see if I could make it an actual business. I couldn’t find a job in marketing or PR that i was passionate about at the time, and suddenly the opportunity opened up for itself to explore a career in cooking and sharing recipes online.

My advice would be, just start now. Don’t do something for the money or the bravado. Do it because you love it and build experience in what you want to be doing, even if you don’t work in the industry at all. You never know when opportunity will come knocking after you embrace those creative ideas and skills. Don’t wait for that opportunity to come up, just go ahead and make it for yourself. Develop your experience so you can then use that later on when that job might come your way.

Your most-treasured kitchen adornment? 

It would have to be my crockery which is what you would have seen of a lot of my recipes. They’re a blue and white China mix of Asian and English pieces. It all started as a thing when I first moved out, and now it’s been nearly 8 years of collecting these from op shops and online marketplaces. Just like life’s too short to wear boring clothes,  life’s too short to eat off boring white plates, too. Even though these are inexpensive as their vintage pre-loved pieces, you should invest in these little things you use intimately on high rotation, every day.

For the cooking averse among us, what are some easy ways to embrace more time in the kitchen? 

I think a lot of people find cooking intimidating. It just requires practice like any skill.

Mum is such an amazing cook, but when she first met my dad, she was the worst cook in the world. My dad refused to eat her food.

When I first moved out, there were some great vietnamese dishes I’d learned from my parents, but I had some absolute disasters in the kitchen. I’d suggest finding a really simple recipe that you love to eat, and start trialling it out. As you progress and conquer that one, you can move onto something more difficult. Start with a 15 min pasta and build up to actually making that pasta from scratch, pair it with a delicious salad, bake a focaccia and stir up a cocktail to gradually work towards a full banquet. Baby steps.

Bernadette – Valentine Floral Crepe Midi Dress

Saks Potts – Fiesta Printed Pants & Frida Flamenco Blouse

Bernadette – Valentine Floral Crepe Midi Dress

Saks Potts – Fiesta Printed Pants & Frida Flamenco Blouse

What’s a recipe that always feels nostalgic to prep? 

It has to be rice paper rolls. It’s one of my favourites as it’s a traditional Vietnamese dish that revolves around sharing. A lot of Aussies would know rice paper rolls like they know sushi, where you purchase it premade and ready to go. If you’re from a Vietnamese family, it’s more like a taco night. You prepare all the herbs, paper, meat and fillings, all encircling the table together as a family.

Sometimes, we use a hot plate and cook the meat in the centre so it’s really fresh. It’s so interactive and fun. A real family dish. Everyone gets a roll. I’d be designated on the ricepaper and dad would be on the meat, with mum doing everything in between. It just reminds me of connecting and being with my family. Now that I’m living away from them, I share it with my girlfriends and other guests who haven’t experienced eating rice paper rolls in such an interactive way before.

If you could fill a seat with a Harrolds-loved designer (dead or alive) at your next dinner party, who would they be and why?

Alexander MCQueen’s documentary really moved me. It was one of the only fashion documentaries I’d watched and realised how difficult it is and how crazy that world is. For someone who was such a tortured soul to be so revolutionary and groundbreaking and create such beautiful pieces is so inspiring. At the dinner table, I’d have to pick his brain to see what the thought processes were behind some of those collections.

You’re raiding the current Harrolds wardrobe. What are a few brands that pique your appetite for fabulous spring dressing?

Alessandra Rich is one that makes such fun, feminine attire and chic accessories like diamante earrings. Then for spring boots, you’d have to go with Paris Texas. Those snakeskin, colourful boots are incredible. I like the fact that they’re bringing in these crazy colours with such timeless silhouettes and cuts, plus the wild animal prints and textures. They make me want to buy a pair of gold or bright pink python boots which is crazy coming from a person that gravitates towards monochrome footwear.

Shop Jess' Look


Linda One Sleeve Silk Satin Mini Dress
New
Bernadette

Linda One Sleeve Silk Satin Mini Dress

$895
Valentine Floral Crepe Midi Dress
New
Bernadette

Valentine Floral Crepe Midi Dress

$1,125
Frida Flamenco Blouse
New
Saks Potts

Frida Flamenco Blouse

$750
Fiesta Printed Pants
New
Saks Potts

Fiesta Printed Pants

$750

Shop Jess' Look


Linda One Sleeve Silk Satin Mini Dress
New
Bernadette

Linda One Sleeve Silk Satin Mini Dress

$895
Valentine Floral Crepe Midi Dress
New
Bernadette

Valentine Floral Crepe Midi Dress

$1,125
Frida Flamenco Blouse
New
Saks Potts

Frida Flamenco Blouse

$750
Fiesta Printed Pants
New
Saks Potts

Fiesta Printed Pants

$750

Copied to clipboard