Frank Pham (Pham The Phuong), the owner of Culinary Frank—a Youtube channel with nearly 400,000 subscribers—is widely known and adored by food lovers. On this channel, Frank cooks various home dishes in a quiet setting to emphasize the sound coming from his movements, creating ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response). Viewers are mesmerized by the calming visual and the serene vibe derived from his leisurely cooking style.
Frank's professional cooking career began when he enrolled in Culinary Arts at At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy in Singapore. Since then, he has lived and worked in many countries, including Australia. Currently, Frank is based in Melbourne, working as a chef and producing food vlogs.
Vietcetera met with Frank as he shared his culinary journey, his life in Australia, and his collaboration for the Taste of Australia 2022 event.
Being exposed to both Asian and Western cuisines, how did you develop your own cooking style?
Although I’m working on Western cuisine, I focus more on Asian food. I have experimented with fusion food, but most of the time, I would respect the dish’s original cookery. However, I still like to try out other cooking methods and techniques, whatever way to perfect my dish.
For example, the French have a famous "cartouche" technique, usually for long-simmering applications like stews. Basically, a cartouche is a round parchment paper lid, or “false lid,” with a hole in the center to allow evaporation. Putting a cartouche directly on the surface of the food helps it steam quickly and evenly.
I have applied this technique to Vietnamese stews, and they taste delicious.
How did Australia inspire you to pursue the culinary profession and develop your career here?
Although I studied Culinary Arts in Singapore and then spent some time studying and working in the US, I didn’t feel like I belonged to either country. Later, when I followed my sister moving to Australia for work, I finally found the right place to build and develop my career.
It’s very convenient and doesn’t take too much time to travel between Vietnam and Melbourne by direct flight, especially when compared to flying back and forth from the US. Also, having lived abroad for a long time makes me want to visit my family more often.
I fell in love with everything about Melbourne: its gentle pace of life, idyllic setting, and the feeling of comfort it gives me. More importantly, no other place makes me feel like “home” as Melbourne.
What was your most memorable moment in Australia?
When I first came to Australia, I struggled a lot. I started my YouTube channel Culinary Frank, where I can pursue my passion for cooking, filming, and taking photos. This channel is also a means to better promote Vietnamese cuisine to our international friends and a nest for our overseas students to relieve homesickness.
Is it hard to find Asian ingredients for your cooking channel in Australia?
The ingredients are not really a problem because even back when I lived in Mackay, a small city in Queensland, cooking Asian food was not something unusual, not to mention in a metropolitan city like Melbourne.
There are Asian markets, and the sellers there even speak Vietnamese, so everything is like a knife cutting through butter.
The Vietnamese community in Australia is also very large and friendly. If I need something, I can easily ask them or have the ingredients brought directly from Vietnam. Only a few exotic ingredients, like “củ nén” – an ingredient of Quang noodle (mì Quảng), are harder to find.
What are some specific features unique to the Australian culinary culture, and is Vietnamese cuisine well received there?
As a modern nation of large-scale immigration, Australia is well-known for its diversity, absorbed and adapted from Britain, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Here, I can enjoy and experience dishes from all over the world.
More and more Vietnamese people are choosing Australia as an ideal destination for higher education and career development, and the presence of Vietnamese food in Australia is strengthening. Foreigners appreciate Vietnamese cuisine for the balance of ingredients and flavors. Take spring rolls; they’re convenient to take out, nutritious, and healthy. There’s no doubt that spring roll can win any Australian’s heart.
What is unique about Australian ingredients in terms of quality and standard?
The Australian Government prioritizes food sustainability and sets high standards for food quality and safety, which means that they never compromise on quality for mass production.
I can only buy food at the grocery store due to my busy work, but if you have time, I recommend browsing the farmers market, which is a delightful experience. The sellers there definitely know about their products and can provide you with some helpful information like the food origins.
What do you think is the competitive advantage of Australian food in the Vietnamese market?
Now that we live in the era of globalization and international trade, you can find fresh Australian food in Vietnam at a reasonable price. In addition to the geographical advantage of being close to Vietnam, Australian food has a strong reputation for traceability and premium quality.
Australia also offers a wide range of food, including red meat (lamb and beef), high-quality seafood (salmon, oysters, abalones, and lobsters), fresh fruits as well as many dairy products. In addition, Australian ingredients can blend effortlessly into many Vietnamese recipes.
I think Vietnamese consumers favor Australian ingredients because of their freshness, high quality, and safety.
What makes Australia an ideal destination for international students to study hospitality in particular and higher education in general?
There are many factors. First, Australia has a reputation for many prestigious and globally recognized universities while offering many opportunities for students to develop their careers in a safe and friendly environment. Moreover, as I mentioned, the Vietnamese community in Australia is extensive, friendly, and always willing to help their compatriots, so the overseas Vietnamese students can feel reassured that they are in safe hands.
The hospitality industry in Australia is growing strong. Although the pandemic had some impact, the industry is gradually recovering with many job opportunities for students. By studying Culinary Arts in Australia, you will be able to unleash your creativity because of its rich and multicultural cuisine.
Tell us about your project with Taste of Australia 2022 hosted by the Australian Government in Vietnam.
I feel very honored to cooperate with Taste of Australia 2022. I will collaborate on a four-episode video series. Each episode will share a recipe developed by myself. The four dishes will feature fresh Australian ingredients such as abalone, lobster, lamb, and beef.
These recipes do not require any advanced cooking technique, but rather celebrate and highlight the quintessence of ingredients from Australia. Australian produce is diverse, easily pairs with various dishes, and has high nutritional value and quality, which certainly helps elevate Vietnamese dishes.
What have you prepared for and expected in your collaboration with the Taste of Australia 2022?
Taste of Australia allows me to be true to myself and shows that to the audience without giving any stringent requirements.
I do expect the show to be a success, which would contribute to bringing high-quality Australian food ingredients as well as delicious recipes closer to the audience.
In addition, I hope the audience can enjoy relaxing and pleasant moments while being well informed about Australia's rich culinary sources. Nowadays, it is very easy to find fresh Australian ingredients in Vietnam, so the event could inspire the audience to cook dishes that combine the spirit of the two cultures.
What’s next for Frank Pham – your YouTube channel and personal development?
The Culinary Frank channel is growing quite steadily. In the coming time, I will focus on myself, explore and learn more things. I need some time to rest and recharge before coming back and bringing the audience more quality and new content.
Due to the pandemic, I have been unable to return to Vietnam for the past two years. But in the near future when I come back to visit my family, if there is any job or any opportunity, I am also willing to try. Just go with the flow.
Translated by Bich Tram