Executive chef Vincent Tan recalls his best years in Ho Chi Minh City where he learnt a different language and helped bring up Vietnamese staff in the hotel business.He
tells EU HOOI KHAW he
still regards it as home.
VINCENT Tan has come home from Vietnam after working for 10 years, first as executive sous chef, then executive chef, for Hotel Equatorial in Ho Chi Minh City.Those were the early heady days when Vietnam decided to open up to foreigners and Vincent
was in the team to set up the hotel there.He
recalled the rush of the Vietnamese
to get interviewed for a job in the hotel which was still under construction then.
...Vincent, 40, who is now executive chef for Hotel Equatorial, Kuala Lumpur (since last year), considers Ho Chi Minh City home in a way, and he still visits it regularly.
couldn't speak English, and "we had to learn their language," said Vincent
, who now speaks fluent Vietnamese.
found satisfaction working there.
How did Vincent
has travelled all around Vietnam."I like Hanoi the best," he
said."It's a very charming city."Has he
brought property over there, now that expatriates are allowed to do so?He
It's been a long journey for Vincent
from Kangar, Perlis, where he
grew up, to Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City, and back to KL again.He
started out as a kitchen helper in a hotel in Pulau Langkawi, which is now the Sheraton Perdana."I've always been interested in cooking.I was the youngest among five sisters who were already grown up, and an older brother," said Vincent
, who is Hainanese.After a year he went to another hotel in Penang where he was commis chef, working in Chinese and Thai kitchens before moving to the western kitchen.
came to KL, he
decided to move around a bit to see different things, and cook in different styles.He
was in the team for the opening of the Ming Court Hotel (now Corus Hotel) in Kuala Lumpur at the end of 1983.He
was then commis chef in Chez Bidoux
, a well-regarded French restaurant at the hotelHe
has also been chef de partie at another French restaurant Elegance
at the Holiday Villa in Petaling Jaya, moving on to the Continental restaurant at the Pan Pacific Kuala Lumpur.Then he
was chef tournant (tour chef) at the Istana hotel, which meant he
had to go to all the kitchens."If the banquet chef is on leave, you have to go there."Then he
landed a permanent spot at the Italian restaurant at the hotel.
In between, Vincent
took hotel management courses and did a diploma in professional chef training.He
has quite impressive credentials, and has won quite a few gold, silver and bronze medals in culinary competitions at home and abroad.
The chef likes to try out new dishes, whether Chinese, Indian or Japanese.He
had enjoyed the Teochew food in Vietnam in way-out places, and got to know some Vietnamese exporters of seafood to Taiwan, and even to Malaysia."Some of the satay fish you find here is made from fish imported from Vietnam," he
said, to my surprise.Vincent
likes to cook with seafood and he
served an excellent Lobster Bisque with Conpoy powder and Nori Cracker, and Nori Wrapped Classical French Scallop Mousse fried in Tempura Batter and Wasabi Cream at our lunch at the Chalet.
While Swiss dishes such as Veal Zurich, raclette cheese, Beef and Cheese Fondue are on the menu at the restaurant, Vincent
creative hand whenever a special lunch or wine dinner demands his