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What did “Chef of the Century” Eckart Witzigmann say about Vietnamese chefs?

Monday, 12/12/2016 10:52
In December 7th 2016, Mr. Eckart Witzigmann, who has been admirably mentioned many times in New York Times as “Chef of the Century”, “King of the Chefs”, or “Chefs of Kings and Gods”, gave lots of complimentary for Vietnamese chefs in The Golden Spoon contest 2016.

His appearance as professional judge in a Vietnamese culinary contest was a magnet, attracted so many leading news agencies in the world. This was the first time when a domestic contest was on international news with high frequency.

Eckart Witzigmann is one of only 2 chefs in the world to be rewarded the noble 3-star Michelin, the title that every senior chef desires. His workmanship is credited by royal families and heads of states around the world, and his clients are uncountable.

Eckart Witzigmann was born in Austria. He is one of the two chefs in the world to be rewarded the noble 3-star Michelin in 1979. He became one of the greatest chefs of the world in 1994 by the tittle “Chef of the Century.”

Not only by his exceptional talent but Eckart Witzigmann is respected also by his generosity. He does not keep culinary secret keys from others. In contrary, he has passionately passed his experiences to younger generation.

In Europe, the phrase “Witzigmann’s apprentices” is an implied tittle of a pride and obviously recognized by societies. Once you are Witzigmann’s apprentice, you are able to take the largest kitchens.

After Japan, China, and Singapore, Viet Nam is the 4th Asian country that he has been visited. He sincerely said that Viet Nam had been surprised him with abundant specialties and creativities of chefs.

Witzigmann had to wow many times for exotic spices and creative cooking methods. He commented about the dishes of The Golden Spoon final round as “new scents, exotic taste, and vivid flavors.”

Getting a nod of assent from the most difficult judge on earth, our passionate chefs had felt much more confident. Eckart Witzigmann brought an important spiritual value to the contest, which was his recognition to ability of Vietnamese chefs and more important, to Vietnamese cuisine.

On his way to the airport after The Golden Spoon contest, we had a short yet sincere conversation with him.

Hello Mr. Eckart Witzigmann. Do you agree with the statement “Viet Nam should be a kitchen of the world?” And how to do think of Vietnamese elite cuisine?

Chef of the Century - Eckart Witzigmann: Absolutely agree. Precise statement. No one else but Viet Nam has owned great recipes and delicious food.

How can I tell? After days being as a judge of The Golden Spoon contest, I was surprised because Viet Nam has had utmost advantages of produce and regional spices. You have fresh vegetables, fresh seafood, and unique spices from both leaves and seeds. All you have are natural and featured, which are characteristic to create classy excellent dishes.

A star of culinary world, Mr. Eckart Witzigmann was as a professional judge of Vietnamese culinary contest.

What are your comments about Vietnamese chefs’ ability after watching those chefs performing?

I was really surprised and impressed by those chef candidates. What I admire them the most is their unlimited creativity and the ways they’ve used diverse spices of Viet Nam.

There was no limit of their creativity, that’s true. Sometimes I had to think whether they were squeezing their soul and heart for cooking to reach the perfection. They’re young but really professional. They knew how to overcome the pressure of surrounding reporters to complete their tasks.

I also love the fact that the cooks were the displayers. Chefs are excellent cooks but great chefs need to have good taste, too. Every single thing from bowls and dishes to spoons and folks count.

You know, how you display a table is critical to stimulate diners’ taste and really it makes the dishes more attractive. Your chefs did it well. Congratulation!

The first time being professional judge of The Golden Spoon, what do you think of Vietnamese cuisine?

Seriously the jury faced difficulty when we had to mark 75 dishes at the same time. However, I’m personally honored to experience most of featured food of Vietnamese cuisine from all 3 main areas. I truly hope to be back soon to continue my journey of discovering your interesting cuisine.

Most of dishes in The Golden Spoon final round were remarkable and tasty. Your chefs really knew how to exploit abundant and fresh ingredients.

However some flavors were too strange and harsh for the common diners to taste but I think that’s your own characteristics. European cuisine does not use much spice so it really inspired me.

Mr. Eckart Witzigmann and food experts encouraged young chefs putting more effort to elevate Vietnamese cuisine.

Would you share your own experiences to be a professional chef?

I have a simple thought that if a person thinks he has known everything, he knows nothing. Personally, I am 75 years old and I still have a lot to learn. We all are looking for new spices and trying to renew our dishes.

If there’s anything, I’d like to share just one statement, “A professional chef must learn and try new things in order not to see yourself again in your dishes.” Every time I found a suitable spice or succeeded cooking a new dish, joy and glad always filled my heart up.

In my restaurant, menus, decoration, tablecloths, and even spoons and folks are changed every day. That’s the reason my clients can come many times and still find new things in their dinners.

Do you have any advice for young Vietnamese chefs, who always want to elevate Vietnamese cuisine to international level?

Do practice a lot and attend international contests, such as Bocuse d’Or.

Do remember that your competitors are best chefs in the world and judges are from different culinary cultures so you must train yourself harder.

In some countries, I know chefs need to seriously practice every day in 2 year before attending any big contest in the world.

Young chefs need to take time to choose the best style, which can describe who you are. I always support your effort of renewing yourselves and creating new dishes from diverse ingredients of Viet Nam.

Eckart Witzigmann owns many restaurant which were received Michelin golden star, and he is author of hundred famous cooking books. Precisely, he is one of the most successful authors of culinary books in recent 20 years.

If The Golden Spoon invites you again, would you come to Viet Nam one more time?

You know what, besides Bocuse d’Or contest from 1980, I had not accepted to be a judge in any other culinary contest because I have not felt good giving comments about other chefs.

However, The Golden Spoon contest is an exception. It helps to introduce your cuisine to the world and contributes to bring more tourists to the country.

(laugh) So, yes. If there were next time, I’d take my girlfriend with me. We’ll spend some time to discover your beautiful country.

Sincerely thank you, and hope to see you again in Vietnam soon.

By Xuan Mai/Dantri

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