2 Girls, 8 Looks: The Rice Paper Scissors Gals Show Off Their Yummy Style

[UPDATE: This story was originally published on May 4.]
There's nothing surprising about seeing a pop-up restaurant around these parts, but there is something completely special about learning that the women behind one of the hottest endeavors in town are as stylish as their meals are scrumptious. And that's precisely the case with Valerie Luu and Katie Kwan, owners of banh mi-focused foodie favorite, Rice Paper Scissors.
The twenty-something gals, who met while working at S.F.'s storied Underground Market, have made quite the name for themselves by peddling grub inspired by Vietnamese street food. Even Anthony Bourdain has fallen for their charms, and after dining with them and playing dress up for a few hours, we can totally understand why. Keep clicking to meet the dynamic duo and see the go-to spring ensembles that work both in the kitchen (clogs! aprons!) and for after-work chillin' (Muumuu Wednesday coffee parties, anyone?). Yeah, smitten. We know.
Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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How did Rice Paper Scissors come to be?
Valerie (pictured left): "We met at the Underground Market, a marketplace for home cooks where we were both selling Vietnamese food as two different vendors. Around Vietnamese New Year last year, we joined forces for an event where we recreated the Vietnamese street-side dining experience complete with little red stools and tables. We've been doing pop ups like that every month since."

What are both of your professional backgrounds?
Valerie: "Prior to Rice Paper Scissors, I was studying journalism and sociology at UC Santa Cruz. I dabbled in event planning and social media for six months after college, but after falling upon the S.F. food scene, I knew the hustle was for me. Katie worked as a biotech consultant for a number of years, but after realizing she had more food magazines on her desk than bio-trade journals, she made the switch from a desk job to food blogger to being a badass cook."

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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How would you each describe your cooking style?
Katie (right): "Nothing gets more comfortable than jeans, a t-shirt, and some good old clogs. I like to pair mine with white socks, MJ style."

Valerie (left): "My cooking style is a lot like what I wear normally, which means cotton shirts and jeans. No chef's whites for me! I'm a big fan of black Levi's, an American Apparel leotard, and, lately, scarves to keep back my hair. Lastly, I live and die by Danskos. I wear them so much I have to force myself to put on other shoes once in a while."

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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What plans do you have up your sleeve for the business, both short- and long-term?
Valerie: "Short-term, we'd love to start popping up at farmers markets in the Bay Area. Long-term, we'd like to be the next Anthony Bourdain. We regularly blog about what inspires our food and next we want to produce web videos on food and travel. Last February, we traveled through Vietnam to shoot our trip and the food vendors we met along the way. We're currently in post production, so stay tuned!"

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Tell us all about your so-called "Muumuu Wednesdays"!
Valerie (left): "Muumuu Wednesdays are our way of relaxing and catching up with our fellow freelancer friends before work. While in Vietnam, we spent most of our days sitting on little red stools on the streets, sipping on Vietnamese coffee, and shooting the shit. We didn't want to lose that special routine, so we brought it back with us. We complete it with loose-fitting dresses to make the work day feel more chill. Our photographer friends Andria Lo and Eric Wolfinger have been regulars at MMW, and we invite any new creative folks that we meet, especially those that work and make cool shit happen near our Mission/Potrero office."

Tell us about these muumuus!
Katie (right): "We got these muumuus during our recent trip to Vietnam. We were in the quiet beach town of Hoi An, a city with mixed Chinese and Vietnamese influence, and found these muumuus at Oche, a clothing boutique. Hoi An is known for its custom tailoring and while many things in Vietnam are known to be the same, these sure were different. Rather than having the usual embellishments, these muumuus were minimalist and all about the silhouette."

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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You're both obviously mega babes! What are your beauty must haves in the hair and makeup department?
Katie: "I'm finally growing up and trying to take care of myself. This means bougie shampoo (Kerastase), night cream (Shiseido), and some red lipstick (MAC)."

Valerie: "People always ask me about the secret to my wavy hair. But it's just called 'not combing it!' Although, I'm getting much better about it because sometimes it results in one giant dread. My Goody hair comb keeps that in check. As for make up, I live by Nars Jungle Red Lipstick, Make Up For Ever's HD Concealer and Eyebrow Pencil, and Lancome Black Eyeliner. Sometimes Katie and I take field trips to Sephora to try on lipstick before work. I love making up our 'company culture' in a literal and figurative sense!"

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Tell us about your traditional Vietnamese outfits you had made.
Katie: "These ao dai's hark back to the traditional Vietnamese aesthetic, with basic colors and a banging silhouette."

Valerie: "I'd love to wear mine out and about in S.F., perhaps with jean or cotton shorts underneath and some boots."

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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What's your philosophy when it comes to accessorizing?
Katie (right): "Less is more. We work in a kitchen, so accessories are little hazards waiting to happen. My number one accessory is my glasses. They're oversized, so I get some peripheral vision."

Valerie (left): "I don't wear any accessories. I always felt that if I started buying them, it would be like opening Pandora's box and I would end up with 50 bags and shoes or something. I create restraints when it comes to shopping, so I don't go overboard."

Valerie's Madewell booties and Katie's brand-new Jeffrey Campbell wonders have us under a spell!

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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How would you describe your off-the-clock style and where will folks find you when you're not working?
Valerie: "I'll most likely be hanging out at Mojo Bicycle Cafe on Divisadero, which is where we pop up on Thursdays. Since I'm in t-shirts, jeans, and clogs most of the time, I try and dress like a lady on the rare day off. This just means wearing a dress and heels, which are things I can't get away with in the kitchen. It's funny because the Mojo guys will see me and say something like, 'Whoa, you're all dressed up today,' and I will respond with 'These are actually my normal clothes. You just see me working all the time.'"

Katie: "My off-duty clothing includes t-shirts made from good cotton and my mom's clothes from Hong Kong. Oh, and I always inadvertently throw something out of place into a cute outfit — a gym sock here, a horrendous puffy jacket there. I've always been a nerd, so perfect outfits make me feel funny. Plus, you got to keep it real."

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux