What are your thoughts on culinary innovations like rice crust pizza (pizza cơm tấm), fries with bún riêu sauce (khoai tây chiên sốt bún riêu), and a bánh mì with pate and caviar?
While the debate continues about the lavish VND4 million bowl of phở adorned with goose liver, truffles, and gold, let's focus on the cuisine's core value. Unlike other art forms that touch human emotions, cuisine first satisfies diners' stomachs and only then delights them aesthetically.
Like all arts, the culinary world thrives on creativity. With their unique style, each chef brings dishes that not only tantalize taste buds but also spark diner curiosity. Their contributions enrich our culinary tapestry daily.
Yet, innovation can be challenging. It's about harmoniously blending flavors and aromas. Beyond using local ingredients, chefs merge dishes from various cultures, pioneering the "fusion" trend.
Beyond mere fusion, chefs worldwide collaborate, offering distinct cross-cultural dining experiences.
The Chef Takeover - Vietcetera Edition exemplifies this approach.
10 Dishes - 10 Cultural Tales
On August 16th and 17th, the Chef Takeover - Vietcetera Edition took place at Grand Marina Saigon, guided by Michelin-starred chefs from Vietnam and Singapore: Peter Cường Franklin and Han Li Guang.
Peter Cường Franklin, owner of ĂnĂn Saigon, showcases a modern Vietnam that intertwines with its rich history. He reinvents traditional dishes using local ingredients, infusing French techniques but preserving Vietnamese flavors.
Chef Han Li Guang (LG Han) of Labyrinth introduces “New Singaporean” flavors. Recognized with a Michelin star, Labyrinth was also ranked 97 World's 50 Best and 11 Asia's 50 Best.
The Chef Takeover - Vietcetera Edition presented ten dishes, each narrating a cultural tale from Southeast Asia. Each dish, like the "Roti John Bánh Mì," was thoughtfully paired with a cocktail. Inspired by Vietnamese street food and Singapore's Roti John, it boasted a crispy crust, rich tartar chili sauce, and a perfectly cooked egg.
The “Prawn Noodle Soup" melds Vietnam's bún riêu with Singapore's satay, delivering a taste sensation, especially when accompanied by Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc.
"Hainanese Chicken Rice Donabe" embodies Singapore's essence, interweaving Vietnamese herb aromas and adding a touch of rich chicken hearts. Notably, Chef Han ensures top-quality chicken from Singapore.
"Each dish has its unique charm. Chef Takeover provides a glimpse into the brilliance of chefs collaborating, with each dish showcasing culinary innovation," remarks Dave Tan, Southeast Asia Market Development Director at Nestlé.
Chefs Peter and Han offer insights into their culinary inspirations and techniques as dishes are presented, engaging with diners to share the stories behind their masterpieces.
A Multi-sensory Feast
At Chef Takeover - Vietcetera Edition, guests experience more than just cuisine; it's a multi-sensory dining journey. Upon entry, the artfully arranged wine, glasses, and plates set in a luxurious ambiance captivate the eye. Each of the ten dishes, paired with cocktails, is presented to delight and entice.
Amidst Grand Marina Saigon's elegance, soft tunes from Singaporean artists set the mood for conversations between chefs, diners, and guests.
The inviting aromas from the kitchen and the dishes served create an unforgettable sensory journey. The fusion of Vietnamese and Singaporean culinary arts offers a unique taste exploration with the freshest ingredients.
“Two standout dishes are Chef Peter's Chili Crab & Uni, layered with multiple flavors, and Chef Han's inventive Hainanese Chicken Rice Donabe. I hope future attendees of Chef Takeover will enjoy the culinary delights and the sophistication the chefs bring to the table,” shared Thái Thị Ngọc Tâm, Top Chef Vietnam 2023.
Anticipating the Next Culinary Innovations?
Culinary creativity isn't just about novelty—it's a bridge between maintaining tradition and modern relevance. Such innovation connects our local flavors with a broader international palate.
This gentle progression makes Vietnamese dishes palatable to Western tastes, allowing those seeking new culinary experiences to venture further into the traditional flavors locals cherish.
While blending culinary cultures poses challenges for chefs, it's an opportunity to showcase local flavors and affirm their Michelin-worthy talents.
The Chef Takeover - Vietcetera Edition, marked by the collaboration between Chef Peter Cường Franklin and Chef Han Li Guang, sets the bar high for future global culinary talents.
"For me, Vietcetera has showcased a unique blend of domestic and international culinary talent. It's the kind of experience we seek in Saigon, and we look forward to more," shares Mario Mendis, General Manager at Sofitel Saigon Plaza.