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Vietnamese Chef Strives to Bring International Standard to Local Specialties

Wednesday, 02/07/2018 16:21
A Vietnamese chef who has a special love for local food has shared his wish to develop local traditional dishes to a higher standard so they win the appreciation of more gastronomes.


Executive Chef at the Sheraton Hanoi Hotel, Nguyen Cong Chung (centre) receives the Asia’s Chef Hotelier of the Year at The Hotelier Awards held in December 2017 in Macau. Photo by the Sheraton Hanoi Hotel

Nguyen Cong Chung, Executive Chef at the Sheraton Hanoi Hotel, who has just been the first Vietnamese chef to win the Asia’s Chef Hotelier of the Year after beating hundreds of chefs from 70 hoteliers in 14 countries at The Hotelier Awards held last December in Macau has 22 years of experience in cuisine and is confident about realising his wish.

Despite advancing fast in his career as being the first Vietnamese person to take the position of executive chef at an international five-star hotel so far, the 42-year-old Hanoian said that he stepped in the food industry quite by chance.

"My dream was to become a pilot but I was not qualified enough," Chung shared. "Then I had to choose a vocational course to take and a relative who was teaching at a cooking school advised me to apply and I followed his advice."

Chung said that 20 years ago the cuisine industry was still new in Vietnam but as he studied he found that it had great potential.

"Gradually I'd developed a love for it as I learned about it from books and the internet," he continued. "After graduation, I worked at an Indian restaurant and the Metropole Hanoi Hotel before arriving at the Sheraton Hanoi Hotel when it opened in 2004."


Chung sets up the New Year Brunch at the Sheraton Hanoi Hotel on December 31, 2017. Photo by Lan Hieu

The chef revealed that working at a luxurious international hotel brand brings him a good chance to learn about the foods of different countries which provided inspiration, but he always had a special love for traditional Vietnamese cuisine, especially Hanoi dishes.

"I was more encouraged that when we served US President George W. Bush at the hotel during the APEC 2006 he asked us to introduce more Vietnamese foods," Chung said. "People usually think that local food served at luxury hotels doesn’t taste authentic compared to street-side stalls, but this is not always true. I always tell my team that we are Vietnamese so if we can’t cook Vietnamese food well, how can we cook food from other countries. And I am confident that pho, spring rolls, or bun cha at our hotel all have a truly Vietnamese taste."

Bringing international standards to Vietnamese dishes


Vietnamese dishes served at the Sheraton Hanoi Hotel for the New Year Brunch on December 31, 2017. Photo by Lan Hieu

Chung admitted that he often faces difficulties finding sources of high-quality ingredients for some Vietnamese dishes.

"Vietnamese beef or fish or even pork usually fail to compete with products from Japan or Australia in terms of flavour due to poor farming and preservation techniques," he explained. "So I've decided to use Japanese or Australian beef for pho. While we keep the same cooking method, better ingredients are sure to bring better taste. And we've received good comments from guests."

The chef said that he's thinking about putting lobster in the spring rolls and some other high-quality imported ingredients in other traditional dishes.

In winning the Hotelier Awards, Chung represents a milestone for Vietnamese cuisine as the first Vietnamese to be recognised at prestigious international awards, which can act as bridge for Vietnamese cuisine to win new converts.

By DTI News

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