The half-way point of the NOSH Young Guns series seems an apt time to check in with the chefs from four different restaurants who have brought a youthful buzz to this series of “breath of fresh air” events.
Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt
There’s Duy Dinh and Khoa Tran from Elgin, Sy Nguyen from Okra, Duy, who’s been popping up at Que, Hoang Phuc from Mùa Craft Sake, and Truong Hiep, from The Jetty, who plays regular host.
Each event, in collaboration with Red Apron Wines And Spirits, Celliers d’Asie, and Lighthouse Indochina Group, in this ‘celebration of the future of food,’ has a different theme. For example, next up is ‘Nhậu x Izakaya,’ a fusion of these two like-minded culinary traditions, with Mùa Craft Sake’s Hoang Phuc offering up Japanese flavors and Truong Hiep representing his rowdy, local nhậu culture. And, before this, came ‘Seafood And Eat It’ – a fishy extravaganza featuring Chef Duy, at Que, and Truong Hiep at The Jetty. Additionally, they were joined by The Jetty’s Chef Hanh, who’s late entry adds some feminine chutzpah to the proceedings.
“It’s more than just food.”
“It’s more than just food,” Duy Dinh says about both his culinary philosophy and this series of events. “Food doesn’t just satisfy hunger, it also helps us to nourish the spirit!”
“Eating provokes so many emotions as well,” Duy Dinh’s kitchen-mate at Elgin, Khoa Tran, elaborates. “And, when the guest is happy, that fills me with an indescribable sense of satisfaction too.”
Surprisingly, national service brought them both here. “I’d cook for my comrades,” Duy Dinh tells us proudly about his time in the army. And when he was discharged he went to work in Japanese restaurants – a great foundation in kitchen skills.
“I didn’t know anything about cooking before I joined the army,” Khoa Tran explains. But all that changed when he signed up. “My cooking improved quickly,” he remembers, “and gradually I started to get compliments from the other guys. I think it was around that time, in the army, that I decided that I’d become a chef one day – and learn to cook at a culinary school upon being discharged.” Since graduating, before arriving at Elgin, he’s done everything from cooking airline meals to working in the kitchens of big hotels.
Time To Show Our Vision Of What Cuisine Can Be
“How would I describe this NOSH Young Guns series?” Okra’s Sy muses. “It’s a group of enthusiastic young chefs coming into collision with each other! I mean that in the best way possible – honestly, we’re really lucky to have this chance to switch kitchens and learn from each other and the reception from the guests at each event has been incredible so far.”
Like Khoa Tran, Sy realized early that this was the direction he wanted to take. “Maybe it was being surrounded by all that fresh seafood in Vung Tau, where I grew up,” he smiles.
“I agree with Sy,” Duy, who only recently finished his residency at Que, smiles. “For me, this NOSH Young Guns series feels like a breath of fresh air for the industry. It’s us young chefs getting a chance to show our vision of what cuisine can be.”
Compared to the other chefs, who, except for Truong Hiep (who’s from Hue) are all local, Duy has had international experience. “So, I left Vietnam for the States at 17,” he recalls. There he became passionate about modern American cuisine, working under chefs like Seth Wells, at Washington DC’s Rose’s Luxury. “He’d always remind me of the same thing – ‘do not play games!’” Duy laughs. “But I guess I got my consistency and my grind from Seth.”
“My brain won’t stop thinking about ingredients and recipes!”
“It’s true – this is about us getting our food out there,” The Jetty’s Truong Hiep adds. “We want more people to try the food we’re making and this series has helped us reach a much wider audience.”
Like Khoa Tran, Hiep took the academic route, enrolling in a two-year course at Saigontourist Hospitality School. And, following that he embarked on a series of internships and entry-level positions at Villa Song, MAD House, Noir Dining, Marcel Gourmet Burger, and eventually, Quince Saigon. “Quince’s Chef Julien Perraudin has probably had the biggest impact on me as a chef,” Hiep says. “He really does have a wealth of knowledge about the industry that I’ve been able to access.”
“My brain won’t stop thinking about ingredients and recipes, and how to deliver them! I think we’re probably all similar that way,” Mùa Craft Sake’s Hoang Phuc nods as he looks round at Truong Hiep and the rest of the NOSH Young Guns.
Food As Self-Expression
Phuc was a self-confessed introvert before all this. “So, food became a way for me to express myself,” he explains. He’s aiming, he says, for an explosion of flavors, thanks to the inspirational chefs he’s worked with, like Tru Lang at Mùa Craft Sake. “He’s my teacher, my guide, and an undoubted inspiration,” Phuc smiles.
And he and the other NOSH Young Guns Series chefs will have four more events in which to express themselves in this, the inaugural series of Young Guns events.