Top chef excited by Vietnamese cuisine's journey

April 23, 2023 - 09:28
Phương Thảo talks with Chef Phạm Thị Ánh Tuyết about Vietnamese food and Michelin's plans for Hà Nội and HCM City to be added as destinations in the Michelin Guide, a collection of the world's most prestigious culinary addresses.
Chef Phạm Thị Ánh Tuyết. Photo Vietnam Pictorial

Chef Phạm Thị Ánh Tuyết is a culinary 'ambassador' dedicated to bringing Vietnamese cuisine to the world. She cooked for 21 heads of state at APEC summit in 2017 in Đà Nẵng. Phương Thảo talks with her about Vietnamese food and Michelin's plans for Hà Nội and HCM City to be added as destinations in the Michelin Guide, a collection of the world's most prestigious culinary addresses.

Inner Sanctum: Where do you think Vietnamese cuisine is on the world culinary map?

Vietnamese cuisine has many opportunities, but we do not know how to seize them to promote and build a brand. Many countries in the world have done very well in the marketing of their food. For example, South Korea has kimchi, a vegetable dish, but they have raised it to a brand name.

As for Vietnamese cuisine, there is no clear promotion and development strategy. We have phở and spring rolls that are also renowned, but not so prominent that they are remembered everywhere.

Phở, a favourite dish of both Vietnamese and foreigners. — Photo

Inner Sanctum: Many people believe that traditional Vietnamese dishes are hard to internationalize. What do you think?

The first time I brought Vietnamese food to the world, I didn't need to change anything, and just brought the traditional flavours of Việt Nam. Việt Nam has a rich culture to have those dishes.

Experienced chefs have the cooking know-how for even simple dishes to achieve greatness. When I made the menu for APEC leaders, people also asked me why I didn't put high-quality luxury ingredients in, such as lobster. But I thought that the heads of state had often tasted delicacies before, so they would prefer simple Vietnamese dishes. That's the chef's talent. Haute cuisine actually starts with ordinary dishes.

Chef Phạm Thị Ánh Tuyết (3rd left) cooks for 21 heads of state at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2017 in Đà Nẵng. Photo courtesy of Tuyết

Inner Sanctum: The Michelin Guide has officially come to Việt Nam. Do you think Vietnamese cuisine can get a Michelin star?

I think Vietnamese cuisine deserved a Michelin star a long time ago, but it hasn't had the chance yet. Many restaurants in Việt Nam have great traditional dishes, keeping the soul of the dish, with a taste that is very light, gentle but impressive. This is the pinnacle of our cuisine. The appearance of the Michelin Guide in Việt Nam, is a great opportunity for Vietnamese cuisine to be upgraded to a worthy position.

Inner Sanctum: Michelin often focuses on haute cuisine with many criteria. Is Việt Nam prepared to pass the Michelin test?

I attended the recent ceremony to announce the Michelin Guide coming to Việt Nam. The first criterion to get a Michelin star is the quality of the cuisine, then other criteria such as the decoration and service. You don't have to sit on gilded tables and chairs to get a Michelin star. It must be harmonious.

Inner Sanctum: Sun Group, currently selected as a destination partner of Michelin, has done a lot to promote Vietnamese cuisine. How do you evaluate the participation of such businesses in promoting Vietnamese food today?

I have had many opportunities to guide and advise on cuisine for tourism products in many large corporations, and I think that it is businesses that have created the opportunity to promote Vietnamese cuisine most effectively to foreign guests.

Normally, artisans like us, we only have a few opportunities to introduce dishes to international guests in a year. Thus, it takes a long time to spread the essence of Vietnamese cuisine to the world. But an event organised by a business, through just one meal, can promote Vietnamese cuisine to more than 30 countries.

Inner Sanctum: Currently, many tourism businesses focus on improving quality and putting Vietnamese dishes into luxury hotels. What does this mean for Vietnamese cuisine?

Many businesses are interested in the sophistication of cuisine. The leaders of Sun Group continually try to raise Vietnamese cuisine to a new level, but the dishes must be truly traditional. In hotels, foreign guests choose to eat at the buffet the most, so the idea of creating a Vietnamese Kitchen Corner by Sun Group is an excellent opportunity to bring Vietnamese cuisine to more international guests.

Inner Sanctum: Do you expect the Michelin Guide visiting Việt Nam to signal a leap forward for Vietnamese cuisine?

I hope the Michelin Guide event in Việt Nam will create a new turning point for Vietnamese cuisine. I think Vietnamese cuisine getting a Michelin star is not difficult. Obviously, fine dining is one of the most effective factors attracting tourists to return. VNS