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Direct report: Semi-final round - northern region - 2015 Golden Spoon contest

Tuesday, 10/13/2015 07:15
Considered as a professional competition, the semi-final round - northern region - gathered many talented chefs from famous restaurants and hotels, each with a unique menu.

Passing the preliminary round with flying colors, chefs from North Central region, Northern Highlands, Hanoi and the Red River delta continued to express their talents through their most favorite menus. With the theme “Golden dish”, this round required professionalism and preparation from every chef.

Perhaps it could be said that the first semi-final round is a dramatic competition because every menu is abundant and diverse with characteristics from the Cu Lao region, (Cu Lao is a land that has arisen in the middle a river) to royal cuisine, up to the far away northwest region with its local specialties or the thousand year-old art cuisine culture of the capital.

Although the contest started at 7:00 a.m. the chefs have presented at the showroom of Minh Long Co. Ltd since very early in the morning. According to the hosting chefs of Lotte Hotel Hanoi, the Hilton Hanoi Opera team both departed at 4:30 a.m. feeling nervous, but also confident.


In the cool autumn of Hanoi, everyone was surprised to see Sakura flowers, which bloomed earlier than its normal season and were brought to the contest by Flamingo Dai Lai.

Unique to this round is the common thoughts of the chefs which were expressed through their menus. They all wanted to upgrade the dishes to a higher standard, but keep the authentic taste of the traditional dishes. For instance, Pho - rice noodle with beef - was modified by adding shrimp instead of beef and pigeon cooked with dracontomelon fruits. Each chef wanted to keep his ingredients and cooking techniques secret, to be revealed only at the last minute, so as to surprise the judges and audience.



The semi-final round started at 7:00 a.m. with a massive attendance. They came to watch and enjoy the cooking demonstration by the chefs. The judges weren’t too strict, but always encouraged the teams to feel comfortable and show their best capabilities.


After 30 minutes the opening ceremony ended at 7:30 a.m. The teams went back to their cooking area with confidence and heads held high with energy for their performance.

Flamingo Dai Lai’s chefs discuss before competing for a spot in the final.

8:00 a.m. : In the cooking area Captain Nguyen Minh Phuc of Sofitel Plaza Hanoi prepared sticky rice in a big steamer. After putting the tray of sticky rice into the steamer he added the pork ribs to prepare sauteed Hanoi pork ribs 1,000. Chef Minh Phuc shared that the number 1,000 represented Hanoi’s millennial celebration. The dish has a meaning in Vietnamese tradition. The female chef of team number 109 was quickly making the “Phở” soup with shrimp. This is one of special dishes in this season and was expected by the audience. The fresh rice noodle was displayed as the Co Loa Wall that reminded everyone about the legend of An Duong Vuong.

In the back of the kitchen, the pot of broth prepared by Lotte Hotel Hanoi began to steam. Chefs prepared the shrimp for soup with tea and pumpkin. Captain Vu Van Thanh said that green tea inspired him to make this dish. He mentioned a little green tea will be mixed with the broth cooked from lobster and pumpkin. Lobster meat was also being steamed (with a technique called “sauna”) over hot pebbles. The lobster was smoked with the smell of green tea.
Fish seasoned with “thính” – a kind of rice powder

In the other corner of the kitchen Flamingo Dai Lai’s chefs prepared a dish from fish that looked special. In front of the curious audience captain Tran Van Tuan showed his confidence by cutting kamala tree leaves quickly - a kind of spice with an acrid taste - in preparation to make a raw spring roll dish. All the leaves were cut into a square shape. The other chef was plating a fish fillet. It is known that this dish is made of red pomfret fish, and to be able have the best fish it should be prepared six months to one year in advance.

Kamala tree leaves

Also coming from Hanoi, the young chefs of Hilton Hanoi Opera carefully decorated a dish on a deep plate with beautiful pattern. Let’s wait and see what will be their favorite dish that they would like to present in this round to fulfill the “Golden dish” theme.


Meanwhile, Captain Cong Thuong Tran was very busy with the dish: Hanoi pigeon. This dish was inspired by those normally served at banquets in the northern region. Nowadays it is modified by adding a typical specialty fruit in Hanoi called “trái sấu”- dracontomelon fruit. Let’s wait and see how it is tasted?

Coming from Lao Cai province, Sen Trang restaurant’s chefs concentrated heavily on making steamed chicken with shiitake mushroom served with sticky rice and soup made of broad leafed plantain and minced pork. Spices with a rich red color attracted the attention of the judges. Chefs told us that it was amaranth leaves.

Canh Ho restaurant team had the first completed dish at 8:30 a.m. and displayed it on their party table. It was soup made of shark fin, including the whole fin which is considered luxurious. This team is also one of the teams that worked very hard and quickly during this decisive round. 

Master chef David Thai seemed quite surprised with the cooking technique of team number 110.

Winning the first prize of the preliminary round in Hanoi and Red River Delta region, Lotte Hotel Hanoi carefully cut jellyfish to prepare for their salad with pennywort. Transparent rice paper made of jelly with ginger and chili was used to roll the salad. It was a harmonious combination between the cold of the jellyfish and the hot of the ginger. Besides that the dish was served with a layer of jelly pennywort that created a smooth and cool taste.

According to the experiences shared by the champions of the preliminary round, all the dishes in the semi-final round were designed on traditional Vietnamese dishes, but were upgraded and modified fit the higher level of international standards and promoted foreign diners. Therefore, each menu was based on the idea of gathering of all dishes from the sea, plains, jungle and mountains. Chefs then connected all the unique characteristics of dishes from the various regions.

The first section of the semi-final round of the 2015 Golden Spoon contest taking place in the Minh Long I showroom was really a dramatic competition. While chefs were concentrating on their performance, families, guests and fans watched attentively. Many people recorded the memories on their camera phones.

Judge Hung Xuan Nguyen and Master Chef David Thai discuss about the most dramatic performance of the round

9:00 a.m: The teams started to take care of their party tables. Many guests nodded their heads and complimented that the first preliminary round took place as a real professional competition with all the unique specialties and ingredients that the chefs brought to the contest.

Chefs of Sofitel Plaza Hanoi decorate a scallop dish with the different tastes of three regions

The judges also had a brief evaluation about the first section of the round, agreeing that all was going well so far. Professional Judge Bui Thi Suong shared, “The spices and ingredients of all the teams were quite special, such as local goat meat, “lá chua” – a kind of leaf with a sour taste, kamala leaves, Indian mulberry, African basil and more. All the teams also seemed more professional in issues such as food safety, arrangement of ingredients as well as kitchen operation with delegation of tasks.”

The chefs picked up the pace when the clock showed only 30 minutes remained.

The dish display area began to get crowded. The table of team number 117 impressed the audience with a bust made of ice. Many people admired the hard work of the chefs coming from Ninh Binh province.

At the next table, the chefs of team number 116 decorated their table with a branch of Sakura flowers. All dishes were cakes in three colors: yellow, green and purple that looked very beautiful.

Party table of Lotte Hotel Hanoi - the champion of the preliminary round

Lotte Hotel Hanoi expressed the idea of gathering foods from various regions by setting up four tiers of plates and dishes. Captain Thanh Van Vu decorated the grilled venison with spices from the northwest region. There were many kinds of unique spices and ingredients gathered on the plate.
The attractive display done by Sofitel Plaza Hanoi

Sofitel Plaza’s chefs also have a special and unique party table. They also carefully brought with them cylindrical tools made of bamboo to be able to arrange dishes on accordingly on each tier. The “Phở” dish was displayed creatively and differently than a traditional “Phở” dish. The noodle was formed into a spiraled wall.



A map of Vietnam was displayed on the dish of team number 109

Chefs finished the final decorations on their party tables. The judges would next rate the performances, starting with team number 107.

Taking a lesson learnt from the preliminary round as well as optimizing their advantages, all teams have used their time completely to prepare, cook, decorate and re-check their party table to ensure fits their plan. The judges started to rate the presentation section at 9:45 a.m.


The food experts highly appreciated the performance of all the teams. The guest judge and singer Hung Phi Nguyen said, "All the teams this morning have expressed their performances very well, and it was a tight competition. The tables the teams have exhibited are great. I'm quite surprised to see most of the teams come from famous and popular restaurants, hotels and tourist resorts. That means the Golden Spoon contest has received great attention from all outlets and institutes.

Hilton Hanoi Opera was the first team measured in the tasting section, following the signal from the organizing committee 10:25 a.m. Folk cuisine expert Long Thanh Chiem commented that the team had a menu that answered all the criteria of the contest. However, the appetizer lacked salt, so it was a little flat. The salad was a slightly too sour. The seafood soup had only two shrimp, for many persons.

Lotte Hotel Hanoi was highlighted for its light and cool taste, and the presentation was done well. The chefs chose suitable kitchen tools for the decoration and created outstanding features and a sustainable party table. They demonstrated creativity in using mustard greens. However, the sticky rice used for the wrapper was too soft.

Also coming from the hosting area, Sofitel Plaza Hanoi was complimented on their beautiful party table, reasonably structured menu and good taste. The “Phở” cooked with shrimp was received praise.

The tasting portion of the morning competition finished at 12 noon.

In the afternoon, teams from Quang Nam, Da Nang, Hue and Sapa competed. The atmosphere was much the same as that of the morning. The event was to start at 1:30 p.m. but all the teams arrived quite early.

Attending the semi-final round, team number 85 from Danang city attracted the attention of the judges with many new and strange ingredients. Besides spices used in the previous round this team also brought 10 other kinds, each new to the competition. The judges stayed at their table for a while to taste these spices and expected that the team can utilize the values of these specialties.

The spice table and concentration moment of Novotel Danang Premier Han River

If in the morning the competition was about traditional dishes but modernized then in the afternoon it was about the competition among new and interesting spices coming from Northwest and North Central.
A collection of spice prepared by team number 99

Still honor local spices as in the preliminary round but with a little bit modification and upgrading the level of the dish the team number 99- Red Dao restaurant brought a menu included many agricultural products but met international standard (baked sweetpotato cake, salad made of papaya and shrimp stir-fried with garlic, fried sweetpotato); grilled frog served with sticky rice in three colors; “ngựa ô băng suối” means the horse cross over the stream or said in another way (“thắng cố” dish eat with “phở” noodle) and “thạch lạc tiên sơn thủy” dish which means a dessert made of jelly. These dishes were made with typical and specialties of Sapa.

Not only “invest” which means prepare well and carefully about spices the team that won the second prize of the preliminary round in North highland but also brought their own hometown ingredients which are sheaf of rice with full of rice from Sapa


Also coming from a foggy Sapa, besides spices that surprised the judge from the preliminary round, Bao Chau Boutique restaurant continue make the judges excited and interested in using Portulaca Oleracea, cardamom, dragon’s flower, “mèo méo” leaves etc…

Vietnamese product ambassador – Singer Hung Phi Nguyen and Judge Hung Xuan Nguyenexpressed their curiosity about new spices

14:30: in the cooking area, the team of Palm Garden report and spa restaurant come from Cu Lao region were stir-frying beef which has the green of marble that made the judges were very curious.

Not less competitive, in the other side of the table, Red Dao restaurant also was using “mùng tan” which was wrapped and grilled for the dish: grilled horse with “mùng tan” (or it also called horse cross over the stream). This team has recreated the specialties of the Northern Highlands with gentle sound but also special emitted from boilers that are cooking. The aroma of the food that are about to be well cooked under the hands of artist chefs make the cooking area become more exciting. 

Captain Toan Quoc Do concentrated on the horse dish

It was less noisy but from the opposite area, the team number 100 impressed everyone with the the smoked salty salmon with fresh and colorful cardamom fruits that were very eye-catching.

Novotel Danang Premier Han River was decorating appetizers by arranging special spices as a foundation under a piece of sautee tuna that fished from central region. In the opposite site is the rolls made of shrimp and wild vegetables. Together with Boutique Sapa, Novetel Danang Premier Han River also was the team presents foods on the party table early



15:20 PM: All the teams were completing last dishes. Chefs of Red Dao restaurant were the busiest. Chef Linh Dat Nguyen was grilling the rest of horse meat outside.

Catching up with the rest of time which wasn’t much, Mondial Hue hotel coming from the royal cuisine were so rush to decorate the Tam Giang salad dish. The salad has many colors of vegetables that carved beautifully.

The judges also started to visit and observe all party tables. They discussed about the way how the food were presented and commented that compared with all the teams in the morning, the teams in the afternoon presented the party table more beautiful and elegant than. All the teams brought many new and strange spices from the Central region and Northwest region. Food expert of Vietnam folk  Long Thanh Chiem expressed his interesting in new spices in the afternoon. He highly appreciated the efforts of chefs in searching and exploring these spices.

The spices table with many new and interesting spices of Novotel Danang Premier Han river team attracted attention of the judges.

15:40 PM: Organizing committee gave the signal to finish the cooking section. All party tables were completely displayed. Some chefs were checking their uniform and keep their back straight up in confident gesture and be ready for the presentation section

Let’s review presentation skills of chefs through party tables in this afternoon:
The exhibition table with agricultural products which met international standards done by Red Dao restaurant
The beauty of the party table of Mondial Hue hotel
Royal beauty in the display of the Saigon Morin Hue Hotel
Quang province cuisine on the party table
Art party table done by Boutique Sapa

The last section made chefs feel nervous started at 16:10 PM. If in the morning, Hilton Hanoi Opera was the first one to answer question and listen comments from the judges then in the afternoon the first one was Novotel Danang Premier Han River come from the ocean city of Central region

The judges seemed interested in with menu and new spices of the team number 85 because besides the new factor then other spices such as firmiana simplex seeds, “rau mỏ đỏ” vegetable, Garcinia cambogia vegetables, Bauhinia viridescens Desv… were cooked appropriated and delicious. Wild vegetables and the rolls have very good smell but if the firmiana simplex seeds would be crushed into two pieces then the rolls will taste better. Besides that the presentation was also commented that it was quite simple so need to take care of its elegant style especially about flower decoration. There were still lack of spoon and dishes on the table.

The tasting section of the Palm Garden Resort and Spa team coming from Quang Nam also received good comments from food experts. The soup was very delicious and the beef was also very good. The mousse has very good frozen level. Judge Chiem Thanh Long commented: it was very nice presentation but still lack of napkin and the bowl that used for the soup wasn’t appropriated.

“The cooking process was coordinated smoothly among the team and the presentation has a balance and harmony” commented by the judges for the team number 95 coming from Hue- Saigon Morin hotel

The judges were rating cooking section

The Modial Hue hotel received a good comment for their lively presentation that suitable for Opening ceremony party and celebration. The prawn dish was fresh and delicious and served with passion sauce which helps to stimulate the appetite.

The last round of the contest to win the spot to the final round in North region was officially ended at 17:40. All the teams come back to the exchange area. The judges had a meeting to discuss for final conclusion.

The stage in the middle of the Minh Long I showroom come back with the exciting atmosphere and happy faces of representative of outlets and chefs as well as guests, fans and audience.

18:30 PM: happy melodies and music celebrating for Golden Spoon contest as well as Vietnam also started

The Closing ceremony as well as award for the semi-final round in the Northern region was officially started with a speech by Mr Tuan Van Nguyen- General Director of the General Department of Tourism. Also, next to the advisory committee, judges, representative of the organizing committee organizers, at tables for guests also have the presence of Mr. Hai Duc Tran - Deputy Director of the Hanoi Tourism service; Mrs Huong Thi Thanh Nguyen- Chief of the General Department of Tourism; Mr Vu Van Thanh - Director of Department of Tourism Hotels, Mrs Khanh Mai Le - Vice Chairman of Vietnam Association of Hotels.

A representative of judges and Vietnamese folk foods experts Long Thanh Chiem has a general comment about the Northern semifinals. He said that all teams have performed very well. The best thing is that all the teams that had mistakes in the preliminary round could learn from those mistakes and utilize their advantages to have a better preparation during the contest. It was difficult to make decision on which team will continue to the final round.

However there were still some points that need to be improved such as the meal proportion weren’t divided properly and some teams couldn’t answer some question from the judges. That reduced the total score of the team.

As an honor to efforts of chefs who have worked hard in the competition, the representative of each team will receive a souvenir from the Organizing Committee with congratulation words.

19:15 PM: all the teams that won the second prizes were announced in the cheers of fans and audience included:

- Team109: Sofitel Plaza Hanoi (Hanoi).

- Team 116: Flamingo Đai Lai (Vinh Phuc).

- Team 87: Palm Garden Resort & Spa (Quang Nam).

- Team 85: Novotel Danang Premier Han River (Đanang)

19:22 PM Lotte Hanoi one more time was named for the champion position of the semi-final round 2015 in Northern region.
The coronation moment of professional chefs

So the first 5 spots that enter directly to the final round to get the prize of VND1 billion and Chef prestigious trophy was crafted exclusively by Minh Long Pottery I Co. Ltd have been given to representatives from Hanoi, Vinh Phuc, Da Nang and Quang Nam provinces.

Please watch the competitions for the next spots to get closer to the finals which will be held at the Van Thanh Tourist Area, No. 48/10 Dien Bien Phu Street, Ward 22, Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City on October 27th and 28th.

Golden Spoon Website Editors

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