Tristan Ngo is a chef, writer and restaurateur. He was born in Saigon and grew up in Culver City, California. However, before becoming a chef, he earned two business degrees from the University of San Francisco School of Business and Management. He also participated in the Bizarre Foods television and travel show with two famous chefs Andrew Zimmern and Bobby Chinn.
In 2000, Tristan returned to Vietnam and founded Skewers, a restaurant specializing in Mediterranean cuisine and wine. Ten years later, he continued the restaurant challenge with his opening of Elbow Room, an American-style bistro. These two restaurants are organized under one group, Skewers Hospitality Group, alongside many other food catering services.
Tristan is a member of the Vietnam Chef’s Association, a founding member of the Saigon branch for the International Wine and Culinary Society (IWFS) and a panelist for the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Asian Restaurant.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in the kitchen?
I think my family expected me to pursue a career path in medicine, engineering, or law, but I always knew that those jobs were not for me. So I decided to study business, because it can apply to many different fields. Then I made the big leap and decided to work at restaurants. From serving, washing dishes, preparing sauces, to making salads. Thinking back, I believe that learning from the bottom up is absolutely necessary for those who want to pursue a career as a chef and as a restauranteur.
It can be said that, like Chef Peter Cuong Franklin, I’m one of the few chefs who have not been trained professionally from the beginning but studied another field first. For me, it’s been a valuable experience doing both. My work goes beyond being a chef, it’s also running a food and beverage business.
Share your culinary philosophy.
Delicious food. Good service. Comfortable space. For me, the food may not be so good that it wins Michelin stars, but it must be consistently good. Customers always remember the first experience with a restaurant. I always remind my employees that good service can save a bad meal, and vice versa. So the service and the quality of the food always go hand in hand.
How do programs like NOSH benefit the community?
NOSH introduces diners to the diversity of Saigon cuisine, not just for a restaurant or a chef. Through these events, the Saigon cuisine community can continue to grow. I often speak with Bien, the brainchild of NOSH and founder of NOSH and Xu Restaurant, about how we can promote more of Saigon’s food and beverage industry.
What more should NOSH do to help further promote the industry?
Expand the framework. For example, I’d like to see NOSH increase the number of event days. This way, we can promote many types of cuisine and introduce more chefs. Years ago there was only one week each year. This year NOSH is held every two months, which will help amplify the community and industry message.
What Vietnamese dishes do you love and where do you go to to enjoy them?
My favorite dish is the sour soup and braised fish. I often visit Hoang Yen restaurant as the taste is always consistent. There’s also SH Garden and Brick Department. I also love Vietnam’s alley culture and the distinct Chinese flavors that you can find in District 5, District 6 and District 11.
What keeps you in Vietnam?
As you can see, Saigon changes every day, every hour. With that change, it presents many new challenges and opportunities. Here, you can always find something new and interesting to try.
More information about the event can be found here.
Book your ticket now: Price: 2.200.000VND/person/night (all inclusive) Inbox: Nosh Saigon or Grain Cooking Studio Call: (+84) 909 904 636 or Pop by GRAIN Cooking Studio counter, Level 3, 71-75 Hai Ba Trung, D.1, HCMC.