Sure, a bánh xèo with foie gras sounds and tastes decadent. But there’s something special about the classic crispy crepe stuffed with a little bit of pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts. Many traditional Vietnamese dishes have been given modern twists, but their original recipes remain priceless treasures to most. Even for chefs who’ve seen out-of-the-box culinary styles and inventive spins to the simplest of food, going back to the classics means remembering the good years that have gone by.
Childhood food is associated with memories of home, family, and comfort deeply ingrained in the mind. They’re often a reflection of identity and heritage or a person’s growth story. Fiery perfectionist chef Gordon Ramsay, for one, always returns to his childhood favorites — homemade baked beans and potato cakes — to evoke fond memories.
This is why for the second edition of the Rising Chefs Challenge, Vietcetera and Mastercard are inspiring Vietnam’s emerging chefs to remember their roots and bring judges and spectators to the memories of their childhood.
The Rising Chefs Challenge 2023 is one of the key events of Flavors Vietnam, connecting and nurturing the new generation of Vietnamese kitchen superstars and empowering them to become the industry’s future game-changers.
With new competition rules, a tougher format, and a bigger venue to showcase culinary flair, this year’s event will display stories of humble beginnings, sweet triumphs, and of course, good food.
Nostalgia on a plate: Elevating favorite childhood dishes
More than 150 entries have been submitted for the Rising Chefs Challenge this year. Aspiring young chefs needed to submit their signature dish through video or written form. Their signature dish should be an authentic recipe utilizing local ingredients. The dish should have an inspiring story close to the chef’s heart.
From over a hundred submissions, only ten will be selected for the competition at the Saigontourist Hospitality College in Ho Chi Minh City. Each contestant will be assisted by two cooks of their choice.
The ten chefs will have to choose between two pre-determined main ingredients and use them to recreate their favorite childhood dish. Each dish should tell an original story, showcase authentic Vietnamese flavor, and exhibit the chef’s magic touch. The food should be prepared in three full portions for the judges and 50 bite-sized portions for the spectators.
While the chefs are encouraged to breathe new life into old favorites and incorporate new techniques, contestants should maintain sincerity and authenticity, honoring their background and the story that shaped them into who they are now.
Higher stakes, greater potential
There are many changes to this year’s Rising Chefs Challenge. To discover talented chefs from all corners of the country, the competition has been extended to aspirants outside of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Emerging chefs from as far as Ninh Binh and Dak Lak sent their applications, bringing with them the pride of their hometowns.
All submitted will be screened thoroughly by culinary icons Chef Hoang Tung (Chef of the Year 2022), Chef Tru Lang (owner of MÙA), and Helen Le (food vlogger Helen’s Recipes). Renowned for their innovative kitchen techniques and contributions to the industry, these three names will form the official jury. They will be judging participants using three criteria: Creativity, technical skills, and vision/storytelling. The chosen finalists will be flown to HCMC for the competition in May.
Before the competition day, contestants will be given 1-on-1 consultations with the jury and advisory board, where they can share their thoughts, gain more knowledge and techniques, get guidance and inspiration, and build solid relationships that can lead to career opportunities after the competition.
At the official event, chefs will be given 90 minutes to cook and plate their culinary creations in an open kitchen, where the jury and select audiences can see them create magic. They will then have five minutes to present their dishes, share their recipes and tell the stories behind their creations. 70% of the score will be from the jury, while audience scores will account for the remaining 30%.
Rising Chefs Challenge winners will receive bigger prizes this year — the champion will take home VND 30,000,000, the first runner-up will get VND 20,000,000, and the second runner-up will receive VND 10,000,000. Winners and participants will also gain support from Vietcetera and partner brands and organizations for workshops or apprenticeships after the competition. This will help them build the foundation for their careers and connect them to the thriving food and beverage community that’s in need of their fervor for Vietnamese cuisine and their priceless culinary artistry.