Viet Kieu chef returns with new ideas

April 30, 2006

10:09' 27/04/2006 (GMT+7)

Vietnamese-American chef Bao Michael Huynh has traveled here and there in HCMC in the past weeks, pursuing his plans to further promote Vietnamese specialties at home and abroad.

Chef Bao Michael Huynh puts the final touches on his crocodile meat dish at Saigon Crocodile Village on Friday.

The award-winning chef says in his Vietnam trip from April 14 to April 25, he has been working with the four star riverside Majestic Hotel in downtown HCMC to open a fine-dining Vietnamese restaurant.

The "Best Chef of New York 2003" says if everything progressed smoothly, the restaurant would open in mid-June to cash in on the increasing number of foreigners who love to eat Vietnamese food.

To create a special menu for the planned restaurant, Bao and his friends, including Vietnamese-American singer Jimmii Nguyen and American model Trissa Nasser, have frequented local eateries and markets to try com tam (cooked broken rice with grilled pork) and other specialties.

Last Friday, Bao and his friends visited a wine maker in the Mekong Delta province of Long An and the Saigon Crocodile Village in HCMC's District 12. There Bao cooked up two crocodile meat dishes for his friends and guests to taste.

According to Bao, Vietnam has become a favorite destination for food lovers and renowned chefs from around the world so that more restaurants should open, especially in HCMC, to present specialties of the country.

The 43-year-old chef's Vietnam visit this time is almost over, Bao flies back to the United States today to help set up and decorate a restaurant in New York City to serve original and innovative Vietnamese dishes.

The ambience of the 200-seat restaurant will reflect real Vietnam with Vietnam-made chairs and tables. Bao plans to invite local designer Vo Viet Chung to tailor ao ba ba (loose-fitting attire) for the servers.

Bao says the restaurant, whose investors include American artists fond of Vietnamese cuisine, is scheduled to open in September.

Bao says an increasing number of Americans favored Vietnamese food because it is easy to digest and healthy.

Bao returns to Vietnam every year either alone or with friends and other chefs to promote Vietnamese cuisine.

Last year, he led a group of chefs and students from the Culinary Institute of America to explore the cuisine and other attractions across the country.

After leaving HCMC in 1982, Bao settled in New York with his adopted family that owned an Italian restaurant. After a short period of training and working as sous-chef, he climbed the ranks to become executive chef.

While continuing to work as a chef, he decided to follow his father's footsteps and enrolled at the New York Institute of Technology to study architecture in 1987.

Bao's two fields of interest, architecture and culinary arts, began to merge. Soon he was designing, planning and building restaurants with other chefs and opened his own restaurant Bao 111 in September 2002.

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