While celebrating her birthday at Higgins this year, Becca Nguyen ordered duck three ways — a duck breast, a thigh, and a sausage. After dinner, she tried reliving the dish by drawing it. “It was super rudimentary,” she says. “[But] I was like, ‘This is a start. This is how you get better.’”
Nguyen, a Portland-area health care worker, has always loved food. Growing up in Riverside, California, she and her family would drive into Los Angeles or San Diego, trying new restaurants and pop-ups. When she moved up to Portland, that passion for food only grew, as she would hit up food carts and restaurants around the area. It was her two passions — food and calligraphy — that inspired her to start creating illustrated diaries of Portland restaurant meals: grilled whole fish at Gregory Gourdet’s Kann, chicken adobo at Alberta’s Grindwittryz. She posts her illustrated guides on her Instagram, @lineandwave, side-stepping the traditional Instagram influencer or food blogger track while sharing her perspectives on some of her favorite Portland chefs.
Nguyen was interested in calligraphy before she started drawing food. For her, the creative release felt like a nice juxtaposition from her day job. “When working in health care, your job is really technical, there’s a lot of strict rules to things,” she says. “I hopped into calligraphy because even though there were rules, there was a flow to it that was really freeing. It was my therapy.”
As she became more passionate about her calligraphy, she wanted to improve her drawing skills as well, and decided to use food as a muse. After drawing her duck dish at Higgins, she moved onto a roundup of various slices she tried during Pizza Week. A few of the pizzerias represented began sharing the post on their Instagram stories, and Nguyen started churning out more diary posts. She was particularly happy with the entry she did for Matta and Baon Kainan, Vietnamese and Filipino American carts that share a pod; as a Vietnamese American with a Filipino American fiance, she felt particularly proud to be able to highlight both businesses.
“when I did Matta and Baon Kainan, I went, ‘Okay cool, I’m actually getting a lot better than this,’” she says. “After COVID, restaurants have really taken a hit, especially here in Portland where a lot of the restaurants are small businesses. This has been a great way to showcase the diversity of businesses ... just being able to show how vibrant our food scene is here.”
Take a look at some of Nguyen’s diary posts below: