First published on 11 May 2011. Updated on 3 Apr 2012.
If you could do an apprenticeship at any restaurant in the world, where would it be? I would like to work at Alinea in Chicago – the food is cutting edge. I'd like to see what Grant Achatz and his team does differently to be able attain their top spot in the dinning scene of America.
What is your favourite restaurant in Sydney apart from your own? There's a local Laotian restaurant called Lao Village that my friends and I visit all the time – the food is just tasty, they operate till late and dishes range from $7-$12.
Who is your culinary hero? David Chang. I was very lucky to have met him in person. What I admire about him is that he is very humble and down to earth – he calls himself an idiot yet his restaurant stands among the top 50 in the world. I believe he's a great role model for many Asian Americans/Australians.
What is your least favourite job in the kitchen? Spraying sodium hydroxide on stove tops and ovens on aS aturday night can be a daunting task – I have sensitive skin.
Favourite chef's tool? I cannot get a job done properly without my sharp knife!
Anything you can't/won't eat? I wont eat dog meat. I used to own a puppy and when it passed away my world turned upside down. I think that explains why.
What was your food epiphany? I worked at a pub down the road from my house, I honestly was not happy – I used to stand around all day watching cooking shows and serving beer to elderly patrons. My sister and best friend had always told me I'd make a good chef but I kept denying it simply because there were no good restaurants in my area. Never would I imagine that I would end up working in the city. But I took their advice and here I am!
What would your Death Row meal be? For breakfast I would start with a bowl of home made vietnamese spicy beef noodle soup, so my taste buds can rest assured that I've had my daily intake of chilli. For lunch a rack of juicy pork ribs, a quarter pounder and Coke with extra ice from Macdonalds – I would seriously finish that. For dinner a 12–20 course degustation at Alinea. It seems like a lot of eating, but trust me – I have a huge appetite.
Food tip for Sydney diners? Don't be afraid to try something on the menu that you're not familiar with.
What do you cook at home? On Mondays my sisters come over for dinner so I let mum do her Vietnamese cooking while I experiment with differnet types of marinades and different cuts of meat. Lately I've been cooking a lot of Korean food at home.
What was the thinking behind the dish you created for the Time Out Taste Test? I guess one word to describe my dish is that it is nostalgic. It is what I grew up eating and what I enjoy eating at the moment. I used snapper because it suits my palate, the mortar and pestle played a huge part in my childhood and here I am using it to make my blackened chilli dressing. The hasuimo is so close to my heart because I've grown it for 8 years now – it's like an old friend of mine – it just sits in the corner of my backyard, yet everytime I see it it's so vibrant. Here I am sharing my experiences on a plate.
What was the Time Out Taste Test like to participate in? This competition has given me the opportunity to meet so many great people. I honestly have to thank the Lotus kitchen staff because I did not know about TOTT. This is me stepping out of my comfort zone – I never been so nervous. To the young apprentices out there, if I can do it, you can too.