Vegan Dessert Masterchef Didier Tayoro’s Beginner’s Guide To Vietnam

Former head pastry chef and chocolatier for the iconic Vietnamese chocolate company, Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat, Didier Tayoro decided to make his own Kayke – a company specialising in cooking classes, catering, consultancy and vegan pastries. Still a relative newbie to life in Southeast Asia, Didier wanted to give us his guide to transitioning to life in Vietnam.

“I’m always excited, but it’s never without a tinge of stress and worry,” Didier Tayoro says with an accepting chuckle. His journey in Saigon started off with baking classes. Through this, he discovered the demand for products catering to specific dietary needs. And with that, he decided that he needed to bring some gluten-free and lactose-free goodies to Vietnam. To do so, he created Kayke Saigon, a company that provides pastries suitable for a broad range of different requirements and preferences. It delivers to individuals as well as restaurants (namely Cuisine Cuisine and L’Herbanyste). So convenient for all the working folks out there.

Didier grew up in Pau, a town in Southwest France. He studied pastry-making in culinary school for four years. He signed up to be a pastry chef for the French army, but ended up being a paratrooper with a degree in logistics. After five-years training, Didier could jump from a military plane and do ground combat. But in 2007, Didier left the army and his home country of France for London, England. “I wanted to finally learn proper English!” Didier says in a forced English accent. He did much more than that, working as a pastry chef in a Michelin-star restaurant called Club Gascon. A couple of years later, he moved to New Zealand for “12 months of drinking and working hard”. Then it was back to London only to leave for the French Caribbean island of St Martin shortly after. His last position before heading east was as pastry manager for 27 of the Le Pain Quotidien restaurants and bakeries throughout the UK and Ireland.

Didier Tayoro is former head pastry chef and chocolatier Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat and founder of Kayke Saigon.

In 2017, he joined Marou as head pastry chef and chocolatier. After a year there, Didier was ready to start his own company. He not only had his experience at Marou under his belt, but also his experience in France and London. And so Didier Tayoro created Kayke Saigon in February 2019. 

He’s built a reputable name for Kayke. And Didier loves that his creation has been recognized by the other players in the pastry industry. Though they haven’t dedicated many resources to advertisement, word of mouth has provided Kayke with the marketing it has needed. “There is no better marketing than one happy customer talking about us to another potential happy customer,” beams Didier, “I couldn’t be prouder.”

“There is no better marketing than one happy customer talking about us [Kayke] to another potential happy customer,” beams Didier, “I couldn’t be prouder.”

Vietnam is hyper-connected

I have family in Europe and Africa. I call and message them as often as I can. I thought it would be hard to find good WiFi, especially when I go on road trips. I thought I would have to pay an arm and a leg to use the internet when I left the big cities.

In reality, I’m continually amazed by how well-connected this country is. From tiny coffee shops to buses, it’s WiFi galore. And it’s free. And it’s even faster than most of Europe’s big cities.

My best example? I went on a motorbike trip from Ho Chi Minh to Mui Ne via Ba Ria. I stopped at these tiny cafes along the way for some coffee and some rest. The connection at these little roadside shacks was good enough to video chat with friends and family across time zones!

Dider Tayoro getting down to business.

Motorbikes are everywhere (and the they’re best way to travel)

Everyone’s seen the videos of Vietnam’s motorbike traffic. It’s so chaotic and intricate, it’s captured the attention of people worldwide. Never in my life would I have imagined that I would be a part of this chaotic scene. I felt that I would never be able to drive like a local. Too stressful. Too dangerous.

The truth is driving is almost as easy as walking. Now, I drive like a local.

To make way for other drivers and pedestrians, we slow down quite often when driving. Unlike in other countries, we use our motorbike horns very liberally just to let others know we’re there.

In Europe, we use the brakes quite a lot. Here we avoid excessive breaking so as to avoid surprising the drivers around us. I try to get a driver to deliver my cakes and pastries. But if I don’t manage to find one, no problem. I deliver them myself.

Kayke Saigon is in D1. I can deliver cakes to D2 and D7 quickly and with the cakes fully intact. I’m proud of myself. I’ve even done it enough to know which bridges to use and when. Customers come first. Happy customers, happy Kayke.

Today Didier juggles catering services, cooking classes and consultancy.

Quality international cuisine is around every corner

Banh mi or pho. I thought I would be alternating between eating these two things. I’m exaggerating, but I honestly thought I would be restricted to eating mainly Vietnamese food. I not only believed, that the food would be limited. I thought activities would be limited as well. I’m a fan of nightlife every so often. I was afraid I would be trapped in a quiet, sedate place.

But I love my Korean, Japanese, and Spanish food here. Whatever my taste buds crave, I can access it. And it all tastes amazing and authentic. Naturally, the Vietnamese restaurants are phenomenal, but seeing the beautiful range of other types of cuisines excites me. My first five months here, I never cooked. I was too busy sampling Vietnam’s restaurants. My favorite districts for food are D1, D2, and Binh Thanh. And wow, the nightlife is better than that in Europe!

Saigon is a selfie-obsessed city

Through my interactions with Koreans and Japanese people, I knew they loved taking selfies. They loved making themselves look their cutest for social media. I thought the Vietnamese would be marginally less obsessed with photos, filters, Instagramming, and all that…

Kayke Saigon are one of the few companies catering to vegan and other dietary needs.

The truth? Vietnamese people love selfies and photoshoots as much as anyone else. I see them in little clusters in the pretty little parks and cafes. It’s entertaining to observe. I can also tell that family plays a big role in their lives. A lot of their photos are with family, all of them squeezed within the frame and beaming. People will come up to me at work or at an event, or even randomly in the streets to take a photo. Not only that. They turn it into a full-blown photo session. But I love it.

Class dismissed. Didier taking a break after cooking up a storm.

Learning Vietnamese takes hard work

I already have Norwegian, Dutch, and Spanish in my repertoire. So, I figured that, just by going about my daily business with Kayke Saigon, I would be forced to learn some phrases.

But Vietnamese English-speakers are always very keen to apply their language skills. Now, I know very basic Vietnamese. I try to use it at the market. For negotiating prices. No matter how hard I try, everyone is baffled by my apparently wildly inaccurate pronunciation. I can, however, say items on a menu. And when I can’t, I just look for chicken and rice, or com ga, my favourite dish.

Photos by Khooa Nguyen and Nam Tran Duy. Edited by David Kaye.

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