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Chef Le Vo Anh Duy: “I Want to Be a Full Champion of the Golden Spoon Awards”

Saturday, 04/15/2017 08:32
Being proud of the latest champion of TGSA 2016, Le Vo Anh Duy is passionately continuing his journey to discover new spices and to introduce good Vietnamese food.
He believes that the tittle is an honor but respect from others is a more honorable value.

Seeing chef Anh Duy after about half a year being crowned, he is the chef representing Vietnam in the International Tourism Festival 2017. Busy yet happy, the 4th season champion of The Golden Spoon Awards (TGSA) contest had sincerely shared his thoughts to gourmets and food lovers.

The champion of TGSA 2016 is the chef representing Vietnam in the International Tourism Festival 2017. Photo: Trung Dzung

The International Tourism Festival 2017 attracted wide-ranged visitors, not only all over Vietnam but also from foreign countries. What are dishes that you brought to the festival to introduce to the Northern diners? And why did you pick those dishes?

I’m honored to bring Southern dishes to the North for the first time, in order to introduce and to serve at the International Tourism Festival 2017. I brought over 10 dishes, which most of them are typically Southern: snacks, main dishes, and sweet soups or we call them chè. More interesting, most of them were also prized dishes in TGSA, such as Kaya jelly fish rice noodles, An Giang rice noodles with kaffir lime leaves, inflated fried sweet rice, or layer cakes.

They were all exotic and typical dishes of the South. People usually say, “eat what the North eat, wear what the South wear” but I’ve gone to Ha Noi many times and seen that not quite true. For examples, Southern chè is not sweet enough but people seem to like it very much. We did succeed previous times with less preparation so we should have better result with my colleagues. By exotic spices, new cooking methods, and names of the dishes stuck with its region, I believed we would create new joyful appetite to diners.

Another motivation was that I had introduced southern food in an event in Ha Noi. Lately and diners seemed really enjoy. They even said that they wish there were a restaurant of all southern dishes in Ha Noi.

To understand clients’ gout is a key for a cook to succeed. Do you agree with it?

That’s a precise and accurate idea. Every region has its own taste, and the cook have to follow the taste. For examples, if you want to bring southern food to the north, you’re better season it the way Northern people like: less sweet and using less fish sauce.

Vietnamese cuisine section with all good food from the South impressed visitors at the International Tourism Festival 2017. Photo: Trung Dzung

What do you think about the differences of this festival from others that you used to attend?

Properly kiosks in that culinary festival had gathered so many dishes, not only from Vietnam but also from other countries. Visiting diners were various, too. It was a great opportunity to introduce our good food and to learn from other cultures.

In this festival, I’d love to offer new, typical, delicious, and nourishing dishes. Especially, portions of those dishes were carefully calculated so that visitors can enjoy as many as they can.

Besides, nice decoration and impressive presentation were better approach for the Southern food. For examples, the inflated fried sweet rice, which no types of sweet rice could be better than northern ones. Why wasn’t the dish created by the North? In fact, a cook in Dong Nai brought it to the table. So I think if we present this dish but using northern sweet rice and sugar, diners here would be more satisfied.

Your career journey has been through ups and downs. After years being with TGSA and the summit of it was the championship of TGSA 2016, how did it motivate and inspire you?

I feel lucky. Even though it took me 4 years to seize that appellation, I’m still proud of and honored because we all learn from failures and grow up from ashes.

Personally, I always aim to a symbol of full-aspect TGSA champion, not only in the contest but also in real world. I’m proud of what I’ve done but I’m not standing at the same place. I’ve been trying every single day so that when I have a chance to stand in front of diners and audiences, they would recognize my appellation and my work.

Le Vo Anh Duy and his colleagues were with food experts and New York Times reporter at TGS 2016 ceremony. Photo: Viet Huong

How have excellent achievements in TGSA brought new opportunities for your career?

A lot! And for sure if I did not attend TGSA, I would not have such opportunities.

I have been invited to be an image ambassador for brands which are relevant to cooking and also been invited to food shows and cooking shows. There are several firms asking to place me in a high position with high salary, too high for me to think of. All of those came from TGS effects.

In your journey of conquering TGSA, you and your team were appreciated because of the ability to connect all spices as a harmonic music sheet. So what is your key to present such connecting dishes?

Years ago, the world’s leading marketing expert, Philip Kotler, used to advise that Vietnam should become the kitchen of the world and I felt so pleased. Vietnamese spices are abundant and personally I love spices. I usually go seeking new spices myself, and with help of course. I’ve been finding new recipes and new combination to create harmonic, well blended, and of course, delicious dishes.

Speaking of which, in the final round TGSA 2016, which was quite challenging round, I combined all rural ingredients, such as lemongrass seeds and Gai Sung leaves (Zanthoxylum nitidum) from the on-site farmer market, to blend a unique remarkable flavor and it was appreciated. That experience came from times to times I travelled.

In the very first round of TGSA 2016, a Vietnamese originated judge had commented that you were a bright star for the championship that year. Did it pressure you’re in next rounds?

I was surprised because that judge is a super-chef, who has year experiences of cooking in many countries before coming back Vietnam and he rarely gave that kind of complimentary. It’s a pressure, yes, but it’s also a motivation for me to try harder.

Chef Anh Duy passion-ally improvises and creates a new dish from Vietnamese spices. Photo: Trung Dzung

Do you have any comments about the statement that TGSA dishes are not common or popular?

I think that statement is not wrong because Vietnamese cuisine is very regional, which can be familiar with that specific group but not others. TGSA gathered chefs all over the country, who represent different culinary styles; and candidates were encouraged to bring local specialties, heirloom food, or even fusion food to the contest.

Even I was surprised because of the abundance and diversity of Vietnamese food and spices from different regions. The dishes might be new or familiar, or half and half but they all satisfied standards of the contest: deliciousness and nourishment. The chefs just needed to invest more to decoration and convenience for diners. In fact, many restaurants brought their dishes to the contest or the wining dishes from the contest would be added into the menus of businesses.

To enjoy and to feel a new dish is similar to discovering an interesting location on your way. TGSA dishes were not only for the jury but also for diners and food lovers that everyone can find the recipes on The Golden Spoon Awards cook book and website When people have known of those new dishes, who loves to cook can make them at home and who loves to travel can have it at the places where those dishes belong. The cuisine, now, dramatically contributes to develop regional tourism. That’s the point and one of the targets of TGSA.

From local spices and ingredients, chef Anh Duy had created and displayed dainty dishes in TGSA. On the photo are: 1). Salmon rolled wild vegetables and served with sesame paste and peanut sauce, 2). Shrimp paste and wild pepper served with grilled pineapple fish sauce, 3). Mushroom paste and grilled ducks in moringa leaves sauce, served with eggplants salad; 4). Purple yam cake

You are kitchen manager of Binh Quoi 1 resort with busy and multiple tasks. You are also on air for different culinary TV commercials and food shows. How is everything going on?

As we talked, after TGSA 2016, I do have more chances to present myself. I’m busy and my schedule is tight but I am doing what I love so it’s not too hard to put the whole effort to my job.

My latest job is to be an MC of The Southern Food – a national TV show – which has 10 complete episodes. The next will be Food Paradise game shows and TV show names “The journey of Vietnamese spices” of Vietnamese television (VTV). I’m so interested in those projects because I will have more opportunities to widely introduce Vietnamese good food and typical spices.

You are the one who is chosen to represent Vietnam in a coming French culinary contest. Would you like to share about the contest and your feelings?

I confirm this news. But I need more time to update and research its contents, rules, and procedures so I’d like to talk about it next time. As you know, that is an international noble contest and being the only one Vietnamese chefs there makes me so proud. Definitely it’s a huge motivation for me to continue what I have been devoting for.

Finally, what are your next steps?

I will do deeper researches on spices and breakthrough my old limit. Spices are my strength and I want to increase it. I also cooperate with communicating firms, building viral and shows to efficiently exploit and introduce Vietnamese spices.

By Le Quang Trung

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