Whistles women: Jenny Nguyen-Barron
Australian Jenny Nguyen-Barron knows a thing or two about acclimating. Having moved from Melbourne to London, she met a boy and relocated to Amsterdam, before a moving to New York. That boy is now her husband, and Nguyen has turned her clear curiosity and appetite for adventure into a sharply curated travel site called Melting Butter.
Having worked in advertising for a decade, Nguyen left full time employment to concentrate on her passion project. She developed Melting Butter, and now works with a small team of talented editors and contributors; she also operates a creative agency, working on everything from brand development to designing experiential events.
Whistles visited her at her home, a converted school building in the Lower East Side with tall leaded windows and a jungle of plants. We talked about the Aussie love of travel, New York, tea, and making the leap from blog to business.
Do you have a daily routine?
My husband is British and he has got me into the whole tea routine. The great thing about working from home is I can jump right into it; sometimes I am still in my PJs by mid morning. Each day I try and have a meeting with a client, or someone I admire, a coffee or lunch; the best things come from meeting people. I also try and work a 32-hour workweek, in four days. The days I work I am very focused, and come Friday I go to places to inspire me.
What is quintessential New York food?
It is whatever is being hyped at that moment! Montreal bagels were a thing, and we had the cronut. Right now it's ice cream rolls.
You have lived all over, has that influenced your personal style?
I am really inspired by Scandinavian style and Japanese designers like Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto. I tend to be always a little over dressed rather than underdressed. I don’t really wear jeans, and I like oversized shapes as I like to be comfortable and free to move.
Where do you like to write?
At home, as I have everything I need at my fingertips. My desk is on a mezzanine and overlooks double height windows, there is so much light. We have made it very green with plants, and I always feel at peace at home. I also write on the plane! There is something about having no distractions.
What is your perfect weekend?
When I feel like I am doing something for myself, and I feel relaxed - going to an art gallery or museum. I suppose it's giving myself time to be inspired. Else being with friends and eating.
Has travel taught you anything?
Here I have learnt to come out of my shell. I have taken on the entrepreneurial spirit that New Yorkers and Americans are known for, it has rubbed off on me!
How did your site start?
I started Melting Butter when I lived in Amsterdam. It was a food blog at first, I cook a lot and I was posting my recipes. I suppose I wanted to have a voice on the internet and it was useful to share stuff with friends, as we were living all over.
When did it evolve into a travel site?
When I lived in Europe, I would go for a weekend to Paris or Barcelona say, and I became ridiculously organised about it. I would scour magazines and sites to find places to visit. Then I would create a Google map, and add descriptions, and pictures, all just for myself! My husband and I were on holiday in Rio, and had visited all these amazing places from my map, and he was like, “you have to put this stuff online...you put so much work into it!”.
If money were no object, what would Melting Butter be?
Maintain the mix of online and offline. I would make the content easier to use on the go; develop an app. I would love a printed series, of books or magazines or maps, something you can physically hold. And also one day I would love to develop Melting Butter experiences, into stores, hotels or cafes.
As it’s your profession, what is an ideal day for a New York visitor?
Stay at the Ludlow and shop in Soho in the morning. Lunch at Navy, on the edge of Greenwich Village, it is a cool crowd, the food is fresh and there is a lightness of touch to the cooking style. Then the High Line park, and onto Chelsea for art galleries. In the evening visit High Color in the East Village for sake and bar food, it is like walking into the Japanese Jazz Age, and no one knows about it, so there is no line. Then I would recommend Chikalicious, a desert bar to end the night.
Visit Melting Butter
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