NOSH Young Guns 2023: The Opening Salvo From Two Of The Series’ Future Star Chefs

Since 2015, NOSH Saigon has been a rowdy, raucous celebration of the food industry here. Last year, the first cathartic post-pandemic NOSH was held over two intoxicating nights of pent up passion. The first night celebrated young chefs. The second, the industry’s OGs. This year, NOSH is going one further with the NOSH Young Guns Series – eight events that pair some of the best young chefs in town from the most exciting new restaurants in home and away legs. 

Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt

NOSH has always been about finding like-minded souls. Then dividing them up, usually based on nationality, and making them engage in some culinary fisticuffs until one of them gets their hand raised. 

Pairing Up Rather Than Playing Off 

Thankfully, NOSH Saigon will be back again at the end of the year. To pass the time constructively till then, they’ve onboarded partners Lighthouse Indochina, Red Apron and Celliers d’Asie and hand-picked the city’s most exciting young kitchen talent, and created a series of events that starts at Okra, Thao Dien on June 5th and ends on September 30th at The Jetty.

This time the organizers are being less divisive. The series aims to have the young gun chefs pair up rather than play off, delivering a menu in which their dishes drop side-by-side. 

Chef Sy Nguyen from OKRA
Sy Nguyen, chef de partie at OKRA, who are having neighbors, The Jetty, over to launch NOSH Young Guns Series.

Introducing The NOSH Young Guns

The series will shine a spotlight on Duy Dinh and Khoa Tran, who are both chef de partie at Elgin Saigon, the playful, pan-global eatery, helmed by Chef Curtis Demyon, that opened at the end of Mac Dinh Chi last August. Then there’s Sy Nguyen, the chef de partie at OKRA, another contemporary neighborhood spot where Chef Jamie Celaya creates food based on the pillars of sustainability, accessibility, and locality. 

There’s Nhat Duy Nguyen, resident chef at Que by Kaarem, the breezy space along Pham Viet Chanh that celebrates designers, artists and makers. Upstairs, along with Dong Duong, he serves flat breads with chickpea curries, burrata with seasonal fruits, grilled prawns in a tamarind butter sauce and whatever other fresh catch comes in.

Hoang Phuc is sous chef at Mùa Craft Sake, a restaurant and bar where made-in-Vietnam sake pairs with Chef Tru Lang’s modern take on izakaya classics. And finally, there’s Truong Hiep, head chef at the Jetty – the space that used to be The Boathouse and now, under the influence of Quince, serves flavorsome modern-bistro cuisine by the river.

Together, they are the NOSH Young Guns.

Chef Truong Hiep
Truong Hiep, head chef at The Jetty.

Two Young Vietnamese Chefs With Complimentary Styles 

So, to kick off, The Jetty visits OKRA, pairing the host’s chef de partie Sy Nguyen, with The Jetty’s Truong Hiep. They’re both in Thao Dien, so they’re kind of neighbors after all. 

Sy, who’s from Vung Tau, plans to serve light, delicate dishes like his green pea and pear gazpacho and his seared grouper fish. “I was born and raised by the sea,” he explains, “so we always had fresh seafood to eat.” At OKRA, with Jamie Celaya, he likes to make what he calls “a contemporary kind of cuisine.” And as host, his dishes come first. 

Truong Hiep, who was born in Hue, but grew up in Dong Nai, intends to follow with his full-flavored Tomato Tomato with banh trang to scoop up the fresh tomatoes, and his spicy K-ARBONARA gnocchetti. Truong Hiep learned to cook with Chef Julien Perraudin at Quince, after all – a restaurant renowned for its indelible Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean flavors.

OKRA Food Bar
The Jetty’s Truong Hiep and OKRA’s Sy Nguyen with the rest of the team manning the kitchen for the first NOSH Young Guns event.

“Expect a lot of youthful enthusiasm”

They’re both excited to kick off the NOSH Young Guns Series with their 8-course sharing menu that comes with a cocktail pairing — drinks that include a French 75 with Christian Brothers V.S.O.P Brandy, and a ‘Mit-Meries’ with Flor de Caña 12 and jackfruit.

“I think guests should expect a lot of youthful enthusiasm from us,” Sy Nguyen smiles. “We’re really trying to challenge ourselves.” He’s gained a lot from his time at OKRA with Jaime that he wants to apply to these events and to his career going forward. “I’m learning what it takes to be a real chef,” Sy nods, “consistency, an obsession with perfectionism, a willingness to embrace challenges, and overall just lots of discipline!”

“It’s a great chance for us to get out of our comfort zones, and cook for a different audience than we might usually,” Truong Hiep says. 

Chef Truong Hiep from Quince and The Jetty
Truong Hiep getting ready for the spotlight.

Hard Work Pays Off 

They both deserve their place in the spotlight. Sy Nguyen remembers sacrificing everything for this. “Back in 2019, I would be arriving at work at 9am and staying until 2am the following morning. All my relationships took a hit, but I don’t regret it. I learned a lot during that time…”

And Truong Hiep has already had a diverse kitchen career. After a 2-year diploma with Saigontourist Hospitality College, he worked at Villa Song, MAD House, Noir Dining, and Marcel Gourmet Burger, before joining Quince and now The Jetty.

Chef Sy Nguyen
Sy Nguyen plating his Warm Waldorf Brussel Sprouts.

We wonder, finally, which dream guests they like to see at the NOSH Young Guns opening night. “Family,” Sy decides immediately. “And second and third, my lover!” he laughs. “For me it’s Uncle Roger,” Truong Hiep says, cracking up too. “I want to experience his brutal judgments first hand!”

The buzz around this beloved annual NOSH event and its new Young Guns series means the first night is sold out already. But who knows who will be at the next seven nights in the series?

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