Ten aspiring chefs went head-to-head in the final round of the Rising Chefs Challenge 2023, one of the key events of this year’s Flavors Vietnam. With only 90 minutes to impress the jury and a panel of culinary enthusiasts, the competitors brought their A-game to the live cooking show at the Saigontourist School of Tourism in Ho Chi Minh City. Amidst the high stakes and intense pressure, Trịnh Tuấn Dũng emerged as the ultimate victor, clinching the coveted title of Rising Chef Champion.
Read: Rising Chef Challenge 2022 Winner Vo Hoang Sang: A Year After His Career Breakthrough
Presented by Mastercard & Vietcetera Media, the competition aims to explore and nurture a new generation of talented chefs and industry game-changers in Vietnam. With the theme “Elevating your favorite childhood dishes,” all ten contestants were challenged to breathe new life into their classic Vietnamese favorites and incorporate new techniques and ingredients to create a culinary masterpiece.
70% of the score came from the jury, while audience scores accounted for the remaining 30%. The jury consisted of industry icons Chef Trụ Lang (Founder & Head Chef at MÙA Hội An and MÙA Craft Sake), Chef Hoàng Tùng (Co-founder & Head Chef at TUNG Dining and Å by TUNG) and Helen Lê (Chef & Blogger at Helen’s Recipes).
All contestants were given five minutes to present their dishes, share their recipes, and tell the stories behind their creations.
Many traditional Vietnamese dishes have been given modern twists. Still, the original recipes remain exceptional in their own way as they are associated with priceless memories of home, family, and comfort deeply ingrained in one’s childhood.
For many chefs, the dishes taught by their parents and elders paved the way for their passion and love for culinary. By recreating their childhood favorites, contestants took their patrons on a profoundly nostalgic and personal experience through which they revisited their priceless moments in life and reconnected with their heritage.
Family love inspires culinary passion
From a young age, Trịnh Tuấn Dũng embraced a life filled with challenges yet abundant in love. His father, disabled from the war, left his resilient mother responsible for supporting the family. In the competition, Dung masterfully prepared a dish of pork belly wrapped in mushrooms with fish sauce, served with brown rice, sweet potato puree, and vegetables — a dish he learned from his mother that symbolizes the significant milestones in his life. Dung's sincerity and talent resonated deeply in his performance, captivating the judges and ultimately earning him the prestigious trophy.
“I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude,” said Trịnh Tuấn Dũng at the awarding ceremony. “I would like to express my appreciation to the organizers, the judges, and all those who have supported me throughout my culinary journey. I also humbly dedicate this reward to my elder brother. Although he is not a chef, nor does he work in the F&B industry, he has been a constant source of love and unwavering support throughout my culinary journey. Thank you, my brother and everyone.”
Winner Trịnh Tuấn Dũng received VND 30 million, while first runner-up Nguyễn Kim Quý and second runner-up Nguyễn Thế Sơn took home VND 20 million and VND 10 million, respectively. All participants will also receive further support from Vietcetera and partner brands and organizations for workshops and apprenticeships.
The Rising Chefs Challenge kicked off in March, receiving more than 150 applications across Vietnam. The entries were judged on three criteria: creativity, technical skills, and vision/storytelling, before selecting ten finalists for the Final Round. Finalists were given 1-on-1 consultations with the jury and advisory board, where they gained more knowledge and techniques, got guidance and inspiration, and built solid relationships that could lead to career opportunities in the future.
Reflecting on this year’s contest, Chef Hoang Tung said, “Despite being relatively new and smaller than other cooking competitions, the Rising Chef Challenge has created opportunities and fostered motivation for aspiring young individuals passionate about pursuing a distinct career like cooking. I’m delighted that the quality of the dishes has significantly improved after each season.”
“Vietnam has a rich food history, and its diverse cuisine makes it a top destination for food lovers globally. Mastercard is excited to partner with Vietcetera in the Rising Chefs Challenge to further advance the country’s F&B industry by empowering the next generation of culinary talents. The Challenge also allows Mastercard to be part of rising chefs’ culinary journeys and better create priceless dining experiences for people, especially those for whom food is a passion,” said Winnie Wong, Mastercard Country Manager for Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
The Rising Chefs Challenge is part of the Flavors Vietnam program, an annual celebration of the country’s thriving food and beverage industry presented by Mastercard & Vietcetera Media. The competition is followed by the long-awaited Restaurant and Bar Weeks, which will take place in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Danang from May 21st to June 4th.
The Rising Chef Challenge is part of the Flavors Vietnam program.
Flavors Vietnam, a partnership between Vietcetera and Mastercard, has now become an institution in its own right — a cultural and business platform for the fast-evolving food and beverage industry.
Special thanks to all sponsors of Flavors Vietnam 2023: Mastercard, Tanqueray, Johnnie Walker, Ly Gia Vien, Andros Asia, Lacàph, Oda , Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Duvel Moortgat, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, Kamereo Vietnam, Penfolds, San Pellegrino, Acqua Panna, KPMG.