|Work experience: Kanako Noguchi (second from right) and her restaurant employees pose at the Duck Cafe in Hoi An city. Noguchi came to Hoi An to manage the restaurant and support disabled people in the central region. — VNS Photo Cong Thanh
by Hoai Nam
Tokyo university graduate Kanago Noguchi is running an eatery in Hoi An with the catchy name of the Duck Cafe.
While many might wonder about the name, Noguchi said it was set up to help disabled people by teaching them how to prepare Japanese tea and other delicacies.
Noguchi said the name ‘Duck' signified handicapped people being able to turn from ducks into swans - and make their dreams come true.
A graduate from Tokyo University of Agriculture, Noguchi started working for her father at his cafe in Tokyo. It is called The Swan Bakery - and is part of the same word play.
When she visited Hoi An last year, she worked with her father at his new restaurant, The Duck, which also helps the disabled.
Experience at managing a restaurant in Japan enabled her to teach the disabled people to cook and to prepare Matcha (green tea).
"My father, Yoshiaki Noguchi, set up the restaurant in Hoi An not only for profit, but as a place to train the disabled and give them a livelihood," Kanako said.
"I am impressed with the restaurant and the disabled youngsters. From poor families, they have complex feelings about their handicaps.
"|This is the reason we train them in preparing Japanese tea. It gives them more confidence in life," she said.
Kanako, 30, said she had 15-years' experience at making Matcha and wanted to pass on the intricate skills.
"I want the disabled to seek jobs with a better future. They must always believe that everything is possible."
Three disabled youngsters, who are either deaf or unable to speak, have trained as cooks, bar staff and Matcha makers at the Duck Cafe this year.
They receive VND1.5 million (US$70) assistance every month, plus accommodation and food from the restaurant.
One of them, Huynh Van Hieu, 19, from Nui Thanh district in Quang Nam Province, said he could now prepare food and make drinks.
"I was born unable to speak into a poor family with three children. I lived in Hy Vong (Hope) village in Da Nang, but I came here to learn bar tendering and how to cook," Hieu explained with hand language.
"I can cook some food and drink. Kanako is teaching me how to make Matcha. I eventually hope to open my own restaurant when I learn to do everything myself."
Kanako said the youngsters learned quickly and had an excellent manner.
"They are intelligent and friendly. However, they are still shy when serving visitors at the cafe. But time will give them more confidence and skills," she said.
"We show them how to buy chemical-free meat, vegetables and fruit for cooking and making drinks. Farmers from Tra Que village in Hoi An city are our main providers. We found their produce to be absolutely non-toxic," she said.
"We have made a commitment to offer only clean and safe cuisine to our customers. Our prices are reasonable as everything ranges from VND20,000 to VND140,000. We attract about 300 guests a month. Most are Japanese expats or tourists," Kanako said.
Kanako said she would eventually open a Matcha restaurant in Tokyo and shuttle back and forth between Hoi An and Tokyo.
"I hope to do more work for the disabled people as my father is doing in Tokyo and Hoi An. I want to let guests at the Duck Cafe know that the disabled people can do everything," she said.
"I hope their dreams come true." — VNS