It has been two years since Dustin Phuc Nguyen had his first interview with Vietcetera. We thought it was high time we met again with the internet sensation.
But rather than wandering the streets of Saigon as we once did, we take him out to a place befitting his newfound stardom — Mama Sens, a premium Mediterranean restaurant, café and bar concept in the heart of Thảo Điền.
Sipping on a freshly-shaken cocktail, Dustin talks to us about his personal philosophy that guides his content-creation and helps him cut through the clutter.
“My team and I harbor the ambition to carve out our own path, one where we can freely pursue our vision and experiment with new ideas.”
"We want to explore the topics that are often on the sidelines of the mainstream discussion. There are many untold stories in this world and even more talented people, but they get little recognition," he tells us when asked to describe the pressure he is under when chartering new content waters.
How have you and Dustin on the Go Youtube channel changed in the past two years?
Both my channel and I have experienced a lot of growth in the past two years.
Even though I started it as a side project, Dustin on the Go is now a full-time job and a source of daily inspiration for me. Unlike when I was working as an MC and a VJ, now that I have my own Youtube channel, my team and I can openly voice our support and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.
2019 marked an important milestone with the launch of our blind dating series ‘Love is Blind’. Whereas Bar Stories showcase the perspectives of influential figures, Love is Blind’s main feature is the pursuit of happiness by people from all walks of life, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, language, ethnicity and religion.
We plan to carry on with that theme in Love is Blind season 2, through incorporating the spectrum of sexual orientation in its entirety.
Instead of a studio setting, season 2 will be filmed in real-life locations. We will also introduce new elements to accommodate the different ways people seek fulfilment. Not everyone comes to the show with romance in mind. Sometimes, they are there to get to know others and themselves better.
What is the formula for a signature ‘Dustin on the Go’ video?
We don't really have any formula. It is not our purpose, nor our cup of tea to make episodes that are so soapy they make the audience weep, or so humorous that they make them split their sides. Our northern star is producing content with real-life value.
When we speak to guests about coming to our show, we don't frame it as an interview with an enclosed script. It's simply an invitation to come and have a light-hearted chat with us.
We do not want them to arrive mentally prepared with all the answers lined up. Authenticity is the show’s top priority. The only thing guests would have to brace themselves for beforehand is the daring games on Dustin on the Go.
I’m very much a jokester and a very easy-going person. To help guests feel less tense, I try to lighten our interaction with humor. Throw a cocktail in the mix, and they start letting their guard down. As the old saying goes: "Every good story starts with a betel nut." And at Dustin on the Go, ‘betel nut’ is replaced by a beautiful, delicious cocktail.
To make guests feel like they're in their element, we resort to a little 'trick', i.e. filming a one-take shot for as long as possible. With less interference from the crew, it makes it easier for the guests to feel at ease. Sometimes, they would open up so much that we have to cherry-pick what's appropriate to show and what to censor (laughs).
Dustin on the Go’s signature is its bar-themed talk show Bar Stories. So, what are your 3 favorite drinks?
My favorites in order from least to greatest are Aperol Spritz, Gin and Tonic, and Whiskey Sour.
What do these 3 cocktails mean to you?
Aperol Spritz is tailored for the summer. It is easy to make and easy to drink. In a way, it's like my twenty-something self, very simplistic. My perception of life was still through brightly colored lenses.
Just as refreshing as Aperol Spritz but much more varied in flavor is the Gin and Tonic. Adjusting the taste of a Gin and Tonic to your liking is easy with the addition of different fruits. It is more representative of my current self. I'm still very young and lively, but I’ve gained more experience and options in life.
Last is Whiskey Sour. My favorite is the whiskey that usually takes 8-12 years to age. In my point of view, maturity takes time, and the Dustin of the present has not yet reached the maturity level of his aspiration. I hope that by the time I'm 40, I would have evolved enough to be a glass of finely aged Whiskey Sour.
What values do you consider the 'backbone' of Dustin on the Go?
The programs shown on Dustin on the Go must always be entertaining, informative and meaningful.
My team and I try our best to make the audience relax. In addition to humor, we also incorporate educational material. Finally, we hope that the meaningful messages that we are trying to convey remain with the viewers even after they have closed their tabs.
Moreover, quality is something we never compromise on. For us, a product should only be released when it has met all the established criteria. Our viewers may constantly rush us for new episodes, but at the end of the day, it's the quality of the production that keeps them hooked.
At Dustin on the Go, we always strive to produce content that is sustainable, that is, not a gung-ho response to the latest gossip. Each of our creations is a source of reflection that can be watched time and again.
Naturally, doing this is not easy. People seem to react better to trends as it’s the norm in content-making nowadays. Hence, our material must even be more well-developed to attract viewership.
Instead of stirring up controversies, our programs spread the message of humanity. These are the stories of the human endeavors, of unsung heroes who are making silent sacrifices for their community.
What lessons have you learned from your guests?
Apart from the myriads of popular figures, Dustin on the Go also welcomes the ordinary folks, among which are all talented people, who have admirable ambitions, extraordinary achievements and great stories to tell.
I’ve got so many lessons from them that I can’t even begin to count. With each episode, I feel like I learn something new about life.
By sharing, they teach me about the adversity of life, but also remind me about the optimism it takes to weather the storms. It's only when we focus on the positives surrounding us that we can recognize and deliver positivity to our viewers.
Are there any challenges that you and your team need to overcome?
It's the dejected feeling when we are faced with rejection from potential guests. I’m quite sentimental, so it’s definitely a jab in the heart for me. I'm learning to not get caught up in my emotions and persevere right through those instances.
Next came the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's going to be a strenuous time ahead for all. And the team is working on a plan B, looking at a Q&A concept as a potential format for our alternative production.
Given how advanced modern-day video formatting technology has become, the implementation of content is no longer a point of contention. Even though the cinematography of our show might not be meticulous, we pride ourselves with how well-developed our content is, and we are proud of the quality of the product that we put out.
Will we be seeing a new addition to Dustin on the Go’s catalogue in the near future?
My team and I have been trying to put a new concept into incubation for quite a while now but production keeps getting delayed (laugh). We want to create a show where music takes center stage, and the atmosphere is going to be very spontaneous and laid-back.
Through the show, I hope to highlight and present to the public undiscovered talents. Not only will the guests display their musical flair, but they will also be involved in every step of the music production process — writing, mixing, release and promotion. Each episode will be a window into the creative process of a different artist.
Mama Sens is a premium Mediterranean restaurant, cafe and bar concept founded by the Michelin three-starred chef duo Jacques and Laurent Pourcel. Mama Sens conveys the beauty and philosophy of the Mediterranean lifestyle through an immersive culinary experience.