‘This is a test’: restaurateur Pauline Nguyen on living on the streets
The co-owner of Red Lantern appears in the latest season of Filthy Rich & Homeless on SBS, an experience that confirmed her belief in the kindness of strangers.
The street outside Red Lantern, in Sydney’s Darlinghurst, is disconcertingly quiet. Of course, today marks the first day I have left my own suburb in two months, so perhaps anywhere would seem strange right now. But Riley St, normally buzzing at lunchtime with the noise of car exhausts from nearby William St, of passersby chatting, of workers waiting for their lunch, is eerily calm and quiet.
It’s not the way Pauline Nguyen likes it. The co-founder and co-owner of Red Lantern (she opened the stalwart Vietnamese restaurant with her celebrity chef brother Luke and husband, chef Mark Jensen, in 2002) might be a “spiritual entrepreneur” (more on this self-designation later), but like any small business owner, she prefers her premises to be bustling.
Nguyen will appear on the third series of SBS’ documentary Filthy Rich & Homeless, a social experiment that places five high-profile Australians on the streets for 10 days, asking them to put themselves in the shoes of the 105,000 men and women in this country who sleep rough every night.
I always want to do things I’ve never done before. I wanted to feel what it would be like to have no one, to have nothing.
— Pauline Nguyen, restaurateur
If this were any other time, the bulk of our conversation would be about her experience on the show, living for 10 days without a home, money or food, and scrapping her way through as a television camera crew looked on, unable to help…