Vietnamese food enters Culinary Battles arena

Ha Giang/Nguoi Viet


 


WESTMINSTER , Calif. ( NV ) – Six Asian chefs in the western region of the United States, including Uyen Thy, owner of Uyen Thy Bistro and Bakery Corner View in Little Saigon, will use all of their talents and training as they compete in the preliminary round of the Culinary Battles competition on Saturday.







Home page of “Culinary Battles”, a cooking contest put together by Caesars Entertainment. (Hình: Nguoi Viet)


The competition will take place at the kitchen of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, Calif. Two of these six chefs will be selected as finalists to compete with two chefs from the eastern region at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in late April.


In its second year, “Culinary Battles” is a cooking contest organized by Caesars Entertainment. The contest’s mission is to find and gather talented and celebrity chefs from major cities, giving them an opportunity to compete for the title “Supreme Asian Chef” in the United States.


Chef Uyen Thy said she was very surprised when a member of the Culinary Battles team called her to arrange a meeting.


“We met and talked, and I made for them several authentic Vietnamese dishes such as “Bò Lúc Lắc, Mỳ Gõ, Bò Kho… They loved the taste and flavor of the food, especially Bò Lúc Lắc. She recounted their meeting.


Soon afterward, Uyen Thy was told that she had qualified to enter the preliminary competition round without having to go through the screening process. To enter the Culinary Battles competition, a chef has to have formal culinary training, be a celebrity or otherwise well-known in the culinary world, and put together a delicious dish, of course.







Chef Uyen Thy, owner of Uyen Thy Bistro and Bakery Corner View. (Hình: www.culinarybattles.com)


As the competition approached, Uyen Thy said she was “very nervous” because “there are lots of talents out there.” She insisted that win or lose, she would still be happy to have taken part in the contest because “I love a great chance to promote Vietnamese food.”


Competing with her this Saturday will be chef Corey Vu, another Vietnamese American chef, currently teaching at The Academy of Art Culinaire in Garden Grove;  Erwin Tjahyadi, executive chef and co-owner of Komodo restaurant, who has organized banquets for famed events such as the Golden Globes & Grammy Awards;  chef Chris Oh, founder of Seoul Sausage Co. in Los Angeles; chef Yoya Takahashi of Hamasaku, a renowned sushi restaurant, also in Los Angeles; and Perry Cheung, the chef-owner of Phorage, a critically acclaimed Vietnam restaurant in Los Angeles.


Interestingly enough, three out these six chefs decided to cook Vietnamese food, thereby relying on the cuisine of Vietnam as a mean to help them win the title “Supreme Asian Chef.”


With so many types of Asian cuisine, why would three of the chefs choose to prepare Vietnamese fare? The easiest answer is  probably be because Vietnamese food is delicious and currently popular. 


A closer look, for instance, will show that with Phorage restaurant, the name probably comes from “Pho” and “rage”. Phorage specializes in Pho, Goi Cuon, Cha Gio, which are loved by many local customers.

Not only that, chef Perry Cheung, owner of Phorage and a gradute of Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco, trained under executive chef Charles Phan, owner of The Slanted Door, a critically aclaimed Vietnamese restaurant in that city.

When asked what dish she is planning to cook for the competition, chef Uyen Thy said that she will have to improvise, because on that day, each chef will receive a “mystery box”, and will be given exactly one hour to put the dish together.


“Without knowing what ingredients you will have, it’s impossible to plan.” She said.


Also a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, chef Thi Uyen seems to know what to expect from Le Cordon Bleu’s kitchen.


“There probably won’t be any shrimp paste, but they certainly will have fish sauce, chillies and lemon grass,” she thought outloud.


After glancing through the list of her competitors, Uyen Thy contemplated: “Coury likes to put together French – Vietnam fusion, and The Slanted Door likes to adopt our food for the western palate. I will use the materials provided to cook an authentic Vietnamese dish, because that’s the only way to introduce purest Vietnam food, its essence, to the world.”


And she concluded: “Of course, I would love to win. But if another Vietnamese chef won, I would still be happy, as long as Vietnam food wins .”


But what if Vietnamese food wins but the chef who cooks it is not Vietnamese? What would everyone think then?


Wow, how exciting! But no matter how anxious, we all have to wait until Saturday evening to know the results.



Contact the author : [email protected]


 


 


 


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