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Chef Sakal Phoeung: Sharing in Our Career Is Not Like Stealing Grey Matters

Tuesday, 07/04/2017 08:19
That’s what chef Sakal, who won 5 rounds in Iron Chef Viet Nam and won the gold metal in MLA Black Box Culinary Challenge shared in the meeting of The Golden Spoon Club.


Chef Sakal Phoeung is one of the Judges of The Golden Spoon Awards.

The journey of seeking, discovering, and creating fine food from exotic spices of The Golden Spoon Contest has taken place for 4 years. It has attracted 1401 chefs from 467 units (hotels, restaurants, and resorts) all over the country.

From the original plan of creating a playground for winning chefs to form a group of talented and reliable chefs - who can keep up the dream of worldwide Vietnamese cuisine, the organization had established “The Golden Spoon Chefs Club” (TGSC club).

As promises, in June 22th, TGSC club opened its first meeting with the topic of “Wines and cuisine” and the 2 speakers on that day were Mr. Sakal Phoeung - President of Escoffier Vietnam and Judge of the Golden Spoon contest and Ms. Jenny - Brand & Training Ambassador of Pernod Ricard Group. They both shared interesting information about how to use wines with food.

There was no longer competition here as during contests so all top 15 chefs from each season really had a good time discussing with food artisans and culinary experts.


From June 2017, TGSC club expected to have monthly meeting and chefs can suggest what topic they want to talk about or who they want to talk.

Chefs should not be afraid of challenges and changes

When Sakal Phoeung – who is named as talented conductor of French cuisine in Sai Gon and specialized in sous vide technique, shared and practiced new culinary style fusion, all chefs got so excited.

According to Mr. Sakal, the concept of fusion food was popularized around the 70’s of 20th century and although it just went to Vietnam recently but it has been incredibly developing. Vietnamese in any time are open-minded and easy for renewing or changing; they accepted this culinary concept quite quickly. They are willing to try new things as well as to taste new dishes. Therefore, it all makes sense when our chefs follow this new trend.

Furthermore, last period, young chefs usually learned their skills and their experiences through traditional methods, such as going to culinary courses but now they can update news and info at anytime in anywhere through Internet and hi-tech gadgets. President of Escoffier Viet Nam said, “Cooking career always require creativity but no matter how big your ego is, you have to maintain nature of the food and keep the balance among ingredients.”

That famous chef also revealed that one of his most impression being a judge of TGS contests was passion of all chefs. From far away regions and with lots of difficulties, they still tried to come and compete with all their best.

Besides, the chefs also used up their regional fresh typical ingredients and spices. With their passion and experiences, new dainty and even unique dishes were born.



Chef Sakal Phoeung was cooking pumpkin soup with sous vide method.

During the talk, he did not forget sharing his own experiences while working with pumpkin, eggs, malto powder, and olive.

Chef Sakal boiled eggs at 62oC in 40 minutes and cook pumpkin soup with cheese. The cream cheese would be filled in Q-cream dispenser. He said that this was a special tool for bartender and he used it to make foam from sauce to beautify dishes. Finally, an earthy brown mixture from malto powder and grinded dried olive would be decorated on top of the dish.

Mr. Sakal emphasized that each ingredient must have certain cooking time and cooking temperature. “Whatever method you cook, you need to understand your ingredients and your elements to make a proper heat for the best result. If you don’t understand your stuff, you will accidentally create chemical reactions that can affect diners’ health.” For instant, sous vide temperature for fish is 60 – 62oC, for red meat is 72 – 75oC, and beef must be under 75oC otherwise it would be totally cooked and lose its tenderness.

Who had worked with chef Sakal should had known that he had the golden hand in fusion cooking. He always adjusts flavors of the food to blend them in local ingredients. He relentless changes recipes and create new dishes from different fresh ingredients.

“When I cook with my colleagues or my assistants, I will not say a name of dishes or point to a specific cooking method but start with ingredients. I want my partner to learn how to cook new dishes by themselves so that they can coordinate their ideas and complete the dish with me. Working together like that helps us to see how creative we are and what we should fix”, Mr. Sakal said.


Sakal’s pumpkin soup at the meeting of TGSC club.

He thought passion was the prerequisites to become a good chef. You must be passionate enough to be curious about new things, to catch modern trends on time, and to listen to your diners better. The experienced chef was so glad because during the meeting, all chefs raised their questions up.

Friendly and sincerely, Sakal said that he must learn by himself. Everyday, he checked Facebook to see new and interesting stuff to sharpen his cooking skills.

“Some people are afraid of learning recipes from the Internet because they feel like they are stealing from others. That’s not correct. Every chef has his own idea and skills. When you share, you learn. Together with creative mind, you will complete yourselves on the way”, encourage Mr. Sakal.

The very last but not least of a completed dish is decoration. Just like an artist needs colors, layouts, and light to draw a painting, chefs also need all of those with only one difference: decorative stuff must be edible. It makes no sense if chefs put something really nice on the dish but it’s not edible.

Wine – A muse of cuisine

So witty and smart, the story about the role of wines in culinary world from Ms. Jenny was so charming.

She thought that enjoying wines was like a passion. Wines are not regular alcohol that you just fill up a glass and bottom it up. Wines must be enjoyed slowly and enjoyed in every sip to feel all flavors bursting on the tongue.

If to enjoy is a passion, to pour wines is an art. Wine glasses must be transparent to reflect the most honest level of wines’ colors, body, and legs.

Gourmets would hold a glass of wine on hand enough to have full senses, from the color to the flavor. To swirl, to smell, to taste, and to think are 4 standard steps of completely enjoying a glass of wine.

Ms. Jenny said, “Before drinking, we should slightly twist the jug to throughout blend the wine then inhale to feel all aroma. It might be smoke from the oak barrels; it might be grapes, apples, or any kind of fruits. All is natural.

We take a sip, keep it in our mouth, and taste it with your moving tongue. That we can feel the sweetness right at tip of your tongue, the sourness at the sides of your tongue, and the bitterness at the stalk of your tongue.”


Chef Vo Kim Sang and his colleagues of Thang Loi 1 restaurant – top 15 of TGS contesy 2016 – came here early from An Giang province.

Wine is the muse of western food since it enriches every single dish. Each type of wines has its own combination so chefs need to know their rules to create congeniality between wines and food.

According to Ms. Jenny, the basic rule is: white fish/meat goes with white wines; red fish/meat goes with red wines; sweet or spicy food should go with sweet wines; and high acidity wines can match different types of food.

However, it does not mean white meat must marry white wine. The most important rule is your own rules. Just find your favorite wine and enjoy with your favorite food.

By Alobacsi

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