Dao Chi Anh, founder of Kitchen Art Studio, popular food blogger and co-author of a recently-published cookbook titled "Sweet Kitchens", talks to Thu Huong Le about how she opened her kitchen door and found destiny waiting.
Inner Sanctum: When did you start cultivating your passion for cooking and how did the idea of the door2mykitchen blog come to you? Where did that name come from?
I started my passion for cooking around five years ago, after I returned from Spain. I was inspired by that nation's colours, style and especially their vibrant, fresh food. Having had a relatively fast-paced and dull life during my time there as a corporate executive, I tried to spice up my life after the trip and remain inspired by trying out a few Mediterranean dishes in my own kitchen.
That is when I realized how much I did not know about food, cooking and how much joy it could bring me. Each dish is like a fresh chance at creating something new, and a chance to share it with my loved ones. So I started collecting cookbooks and food magazines, watched countless cookery shows and organised many gatherings at my home to showcase my culinary creations.
I knew it was more than just a hobby. So I started my blog called Door To My Kitchen to record my food journey, experiences and personal growth during this journey.
The name of the blog came to me very naturally. They say, "When a door closes, another door opens." As I closed my old door, I found myself opening the door to the amazing new world of my own kitchen.
Inner Sanctum: How do you describe your style of cooking? Do you plan to introduce Vietnamese cuisine to people outside Viet Nam?
My style of cooking is pretty simple and focuses on the "feel good" factor of a meal. I believe that a great meal is not only about delicious taste, but also about enjoying the process of creating that meal from start to finish. Making a dish which has special meaning for you, which inspires you, means you will put more love and attention to the making of that dish. Naturally, it will turn out better than just any dish you try to cook absentmindedly.
This factor influences my style of cooking. I will only cook dishes which make me feel good, and dishes which make me feel good have vibrant colours, characters of the cultures which I love (such as Southeast Asia, Mediterranean, Italian, etc), and the flavours of freshness and life. I pay a lot of attention to fresh and seasonal ingredients. After all, we should live and eat close to nature.
Inner Sanctum: You recently published "Hai Can Bep Ngot Ngao" or Sweet Kitchens, the first Vietnamese cookbook published outside Viet Nam as well. Are you and your co-author surprised by its popularity and that cooking is becoming more popular among youngsters, even in the world of technology they live in?
We are surprised and not surprised at the same time. We are surprised that the world is keen to read our recipes as we are just two bloggers from Viet Nam with a special friendship and personal views on food and taste. It is very special to us to be published by an international publisher and have our books distributed in Europe, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Singapore in English and, in Viet Nam in our own mother tongue.
The young generation nowadays may spend more time on social media or in using mobile technology more than in cooking. But many of them now see cooking as an escape from the stressful work or school life and as a stage for them to showcase or express their individuality and style. Hence, cooking and baking have found a place in the hearts of many young cooks.
Inner Sanctum: What struggles do you have to overcome as a young entrepreneur? Do you have any advice for other young Vietnamese who want to launch start-ups?
After two years of hard work, we have established a strong and growing following which gets inspired by us to become better cooks and, in general, lead happier lives through cooking and eating with joy and love.
I have been trying to overcome the struggles of a young entrepreneur everyday. Starting a business in Viet Nam at a young age during the difficult times in 2012 was hard, but being a returning Vietnamese in this business world is even harder.
There was culture shock and many cultural differences which I had to accept and adapt to while doing business in Viet Nam after having lived abroad for over 20 years. The other major challenge is doing business in an entirely new and foreign field in Viet Nam with little experience in this industry and cultivating the market from the initial stage. When we started out, not many people were interested in baking or Western cooking at home, so it was harder to sell our products and services.
The best advice I can give to young entrepreneurs out there is to be true to yourself and always, always listen to your own calling. Your heart knows best what you truly want. Only when you pursue what you truly want and believe in, you will achieve the greatest results as you are doing it for yourself and nobody else. Money and profit is secondary. It is important to know whether your business idea would have a good chance of turning profitable, but you should do it for your own reasons rather than money, fame or freedom. — VNS