After Việt Nam’s legendary Phở Thìn Lò Đúc, which has charmed Hanoians and tourists for nearly 40 years, proved popular among customers in Tokyo, Japan, Bánh Mì Phượng Hội An (Ms Phượng Baguette in Hội An) recently debuted in Seoul, South Korea. Đào Đức Lộc, who designed the interior for the Bánh Mì Phượng Baguette shop in Seoul, speaks with Bùi Quỳnh Hoa about his passion for Vietnamese cuisine and his desire to take Vietnamese specialities worldwide.
PASSION FOR FOOD: Đào Đức Lộc, founder of the AFOOD Ltd Co.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m the founder and director of the AFOOD Ltd Co, specialising in design, setup, operation and marketing in the food and beverage field in Việt Nam.
I love Vietnamese culture, so I decided to devote myself to promoting Vietnamese cuisine.
My target is to set up new models in the field. I dream about telling stories about our country’s cuisine culture to friends worldwide.
Inner Sanctum: Where does your passion stem from?
I was born in Hải Phòng. In 2012, at age 18, I came to Hà Nội to work at small coffee shops.
Gaining some skills and experiences, I worked for larger branches (including Cộng Coffee Việt Nam, Cộng Coffee International, Twitter Beans Coffee, Koibento, Ramencado, and Duha) at different positions as manager, operation manager, art director and consultant/concept creator.
FULL OF PRAISE: Ms Phượng’s bread in Hội An was named the best in the world by late chef Anthony Bourdain. Photos courtesy of Đào Đức Lộc
Inner Sanctum: Why did you choose the Phượng Baguette shop in Hội An as your first project in taking Vietnamese cuisine overseas?
In my opinion, our country’s specialties are diverse and delicious.
Ms Phượng’s baguette shop in Hội An is famous among tourists for its hot and crunchy bread, delicious meat and pate and their own sauce. The mixture between meat filling and green vegetables makes a loaf of bread more appetising.
The shop has got lots of compliments from customers and tourist from all over the world, as well as reviews in numerous foreign travel magazines, newspapers and websites.
Late chef Anthony Bourdain, who ate bún chả (fresh rice vermicelli with grilled pork and aromatic herbs) with US President Barack Obama in Hà Nội in 2016 also named Ms Phượng’s bread as one of the best in the world.
On a visit to Hội An, my Korean friends fell in love with bread here, and the local culture. They asked me how they could bring the typical yellow walls, decorative lanterns, paper flowers and especially Ms Phượng's bread to their country. Being Vietnamese, I was very proud of that and decided to devote myself to bringing Vietnamese culture to their country. Now, Ms Phượng baguette shop in Seoul has attracted many Korean tourists who wish to sample Hội An bread and take pictures.
Inner Sanctum: Following the success of Hà Nội’s Phở Thìn Lò Đúc in Tokyo, Ms Phượng baguettes have drawn the attention of local diners. Could you tell us more about the shop?
The Ms Phượng baguette shop is a big success for me as well as my Korean partners.
After opening in May, lots of locals learned about the shop. Vietnamese people living and studying there also warmly welcomed the store. Along with enjoying the Vietnamese specialty, they also wanted to take pictures to check in and post on their Facebook page.
My concept for the shop is providing a nostalgic feeling for customers. I want to show them gorgeous Hội An with yellow walls, geometric tiles and a decorative xích lô (cyclo) in front. I want them to feel Vietnamese culture every time they come to the shop to enjoy the delicious bread and listen to Vietnamese music.
Korean architects and cultural experts have also praised the location. They consider it special not only for the food but also its culture.
TOP SPOT: Ms Phượng Baguette shop in Seoul from outside. Photo courtesy of Đào Đức Lộc
Inner Sanctum: Many foreign travel magazines and websites have praised Ms Phượng’s bread as one of the best in the world. How do you feel about this?
I’m so proud.
I feel so excited when visitors come to the shop and are introduced to our culture and cuisine.
Inner Sanctum: Where is Việt Nam on the international cuisine map?
Vietnamese cuisine is diverse in flavours and ways of cooking, I think. So we have many chances to appear on the international cuisine map and impress friends.
Inner Sanctum: Was it difficult opening the business?
At the beginning, we faced a lack of capital, experience and trust. It was a really difficult period for everyone.
But there’s a saying I love: “Do what nobody does to achieve what nobody has”. It helps me be firm with the way I overcome challenges.
Inner Sanctum: What is your plan for the future?
After the success of Ms Phượng's bread shop in Seoul, I plant to carry out three more projects to open phở (Vietnamese noodle), bún cá (fish vermicelli) and bread restaurants in Hà Nội and HCM City.
Next month, I will work with a German partner to set up a model of Vietnamese specialty – Cơm Phở 1966 in Germany and European markets. VNS