​Vietnamese man makes bold departures to be chef

A Vietnamese man has taken milestone steps different from those originally planned on his educational path and become a successful cook with the love for his homeland’s cuisine.

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Danial Nguyen Minh Dung is seen at a cooking contest. Photo courtesy of Dung
Danial Nguyen Minh Dung, 33, made important decisions almost on a whim, out of the passion for cooking and against his late father’s wish.

He has returned to Vietnam after living in New Zealand for 18 years, hence the foreign addition to his Vietnamese name.

Dung recalled that in his childhood he would hasten to the neighbors’ houses and attentively look at them making cakes or preparing food.

He was admitted to a medical university but refused to study there only three weeks before the admission when he accidentally saw students cooking inside a school building.

He enrolled in cooking courses at the school, although his father said before he died that Dung should be discouraged from treading any cooking career path.

He worked as an assistant in the kitchen of a restaurant during his student time, which lasted two years.

Upon graduation, he spent one more year learning how to make cakes before landing a job at an average-sized cakery, where he acquired useful experience.

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Danial Nguyen Minh Dung receives the grand prize of the Bocuse d'Or Vietnam, March 2018. Photo: Lys Events

Meanwhile, he was following the educational program of tourism, restaurant and hotel management, and financial analysis at the University of Waitako in New Zealand.

But he chose not to defen his completed doctoral thesis.

“In New Zealand, with a doctorate, you can only be a lecturer or researcher, and no one would be willing to employ you to do anything else. I think I’m still too young. I still desire to play, I want to work in the kitchen,” he said.

One of his greatest wishes is owning a restaurant in Vietnam and possibly a school training young people in cooking.

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The papaya dish made by Danial Nguyen Minh Dung at the Bocuse d'Or Vietnam, March 2018. Photo: Lys Events

“I want to conflate Vietnamese culinary flavors with the Western foods that I know. Many Vietnamese foods can gain a worldwide reputation, in addition to pho or cha gio [fried spring rolls].”

His professional principle is partly guided by respect, which he said should be paid to customers, ingredients, flavors, and the culture giving rise to the food he is making.

Dung won the first prize of the Bocuse d'Or Vietnam, a national cooking competition held in Vietnam in March, becoming the Vietnamese candidate to join the Bocuse d'Or at the Asia-Pacific level in May.

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