Trịnh Tuấn Dũng from Ắp Chen Bistro wins the Rising Chefs Challenge 2023, besting nine other aspiring chefs.
The final round of the Rising Chefs Challenge, one of the key events of Flavors Vietnam 2023, today took place at the Saigontourist School of Tourism in Ho Chi Minh City. Trịnh Tuấn Dũng bested nine other aspiring Vietnamese chefs during a 90-minute live cooking show challenge in front of the jury and selected culinary enthusiasts.
Presented by Mastercard & Vietcetera Media, the competition is aimed at exploring and nurturing a new generation of talented chefs and industry game-changers in Vietnam. With the theme “Elevating your favorite childhood dishes”, all ten contestants were challenged to breathe new life into their classic Vietnamese favorites and incorporate new techniques and ingredients to create a culinary masterpiece.
70% of the score came from the jury, while audience scores accounted for the remaining 30%. The jury consisted of industry icons Chef Trụ Lang (Founder & Head Chef at MÙA Hội An and MÙA Craft Sake), Chef Hoàng Tùng (Co-founder & Head Chef at TUNG Dining and Å by TUNG) and Helen Lê (Chef & Blogger at Helen’s Recipes).
All contestants were given five minutes to present their dishes, share their recipes, and tell the stories behind their creations.
Many traditional Vietnamese dishes have been given modern twists, but the original recipes remain special in their own way as they are associated with priceless memories of home, family, and comfort deeply ingrained in one’s childhood. For many chefs, it is the dishes taught by their parents and elders that paved the way for their passion and love toward culinary. By recreating their childhood favorite, contestants took their patrons on a journey of deeply nostalgic and personal experience, through which they revisited their priceless moments in life and reconnected with their heritage.
From a young age, Tuan Dung embraced a life filled with challenges, yet abundant in love. His father, disabled from the war, left the responsibility of supporting the family to his resilient mother. In the competition, Dung masterfully prepared a dish of pork belly wrapped in mushrooms with fish sauce, served with brown rice, sweet potato puree, and vegetables – a dish, which he learned from his parents, symbolized significant milestones in his life. Dung’s sincerity and talent resonated deeply in his performance, captivating the judges and ultimately earning him the prestigious championship trophy.
Winner Trịnh Tuấn Dũng received VND 30 million, while first runner-up Nguyễn Kim Quý and second runner-up Nguyễn Thế Sơn took home VND 20 million, and VND 10 million, respectively. All participants will also receive further support from Vietcetera and partner brands and organizations for workshops and apprenticeships.
Tuấn Dũng shared, “I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. I would like to express my appreciation to the organizers, the judges, and all those who have supported me throughout my culinary journey. I also humbly dedicate this reward to my elder brother. Although he is not a chef nor does he work in the F&B industry, he has been a constant source of love and unwavering support throughout my culinary journey. Thank you, my brother and everyone.”
The Rising Chefs Challenge kicked off in March, receiving more than 150 applications from across Vietnam. The entries were judged on three criteria: creativity, technical skills, and vision/storytelling, before selecting 10 finalists to the Final Round. Finalists were given 1-on-1 consultations with the jury and advisory board, where they could share their thoughts, gain more knowledge and techniques, get guidance and inspiration, and build solid relationships that could lead to career opportunities.
Reflecting on this year’s contest, Chef Hoang Tung shared, “Despite being relatively new and smaller in comparison to other cooking competitions, the Rising Chef Challenge has created opportunities and fostered motivation for aspiring young individuals passionate about pursuing a distinct career like cooking. I’m very happy that the quality of the dishes has significantly improved after each season.”
“Vietnam has a rich food history and the diverse cuisine here make it a top destination for food lovers globally. Mastercard is excited to partner with Vietcetera in the Rising Chefs Challenge to further advance the country’s F&B industry by empowering the next generation of culinary talents. The Challenge also allows Mastercard to be part of rising chefs’ culinary journeys and better create priceless dining experiences for people, especially those for whom food is a passion,” said Winnie Wong, Mastercard Country Manager for Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
The Rising Chefs Challenge is part of the Flavors Vietnam program, an annual celebration of the country’s thriving food and beverage industry presented by Mastercard & Vietcetera Media. The competition is followed by the long-awaited Restaurant and Bar Weeks, which will take place in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Danang from May 21st to June 4th.
About Vietcetera, vietcetera.com
Vietcetera is Vietnam’s first media company serving as a publishing platform for Vietnamese and English language content. Operating as a news hub for Vietnam, Vietcetera caters to different kinds of readers, middle-class and white-collar Vietnamese consumers, international business readers, overseas Vietnamese, and travelers to Vietnam. The digital media organization was launched in 2016 by Founder and President Guy Truong and Co-Founder and CEO Hao Tran.