When you’re tasting delicious dishes in a restaurant, have you ever imagined the one who made them? Have you ever thought a grumpy chef like Gordon Ramsay, or a corpulent chef like Emeril Lagasse is the author of such exquisite dishes?
A chef is always different from what you think, Lang Lieu cooking class’s head chef - Mr. Cong is just the same. “Although I started with nothing in my hand, I was luckier than the people at the bottom of society that I have a family, and I have aspirations”. His story and how he made effort to become a professional cook will give you another look of our calm and dedicated chef.
Spikes and thorns of the young days
Cong was born in a poor small village in Thai Binh Province. Since he was a young pupil, his daily routine has revolved around going to school, working on the fields, doing housework and doing part-time jobs to support his family. Despite his hard life, the boy has never left his aspirations of becoming an IT programmer behind.
Chef Nguyen Van Cong
Unfortunately, in 2010, an accident caused Cong’s mother to be bedridden when he was about to graduate high school. At that moment, all dreams, all future plans of this 18-year-old boy seemed to come to an end. “Life is hard, and I had to do everything to keep going, if I don’t do it, then who will?” And that’s what he actually did. His family could not afford university fees, but he never blamed his parents for that. Cong decided to put his dreams aside and focused on earning money for a better life.
This young boy has worked as a vehicle repairer, although the salary wasn’t enough to cover his everyday need, he has no choice but to try his best and work hard. Finally the opportunity smiled at him. After a few months, someone introduced him to KOTO Vocational Training Centre, it’s the time for him to make a big decision of his life : to be safe and continue the work he already used to, or take risks and step into a whole new field that he had never thought of. No degrees, no skills, no special talents, starting a new job was a huge challenge. However “When you have nothing in your hand, there is nothing to lose”. And he chose to take this chance.
Never stop learning
Came to KOTO, Cong studied Hospitality Industry of Kitchen Operation. He completed the course and got a certificate after 2 years. He started his job as a cook and not only earned enough to support himself and his parents but also saved money to pursue the dream that never faded - to become an IT programmer. Besides daily work in the kitchen, he spent every minute learning English and IT.
After starting his job in Lang Lieu restaurant, his learning process has never ended. Even when Cong became a head chef, a “teacher” who teaches tourists to cook Vietnamese cuisine, he always thought his knowledge was limited and kept on improving himself. Along with the hobby of traveling, Cong has been to many areas in this country to learn about the origins of food such as how to catch preserve seafood, how to make fish sauce.
He once told us about the memory of visiting a mountain village. "They caught fish from the stream and grilled directly on the shore. It was the first time I felt such simplicity in a specialty". Indeed, delicious doesn't always come with complexity!
Cong considered himself a perfectionist and that sometimes isn’t really a good thing. He always wants to be the one to start and complete the work his way and not be interfered by anyone. However, this opinionated chef knows that learning is extremely important so he always listens to the advices of the others, then thinks and selects what’s better and what’s the best for him.
Love and passion
Being a chef isn’t always about following recipes, if the chef doesn’t have a love for food, the dishes he makes will be just the same as canned food. Despite the original purpose of making money to pursue IT programmer dream, as time goes by, Cong’s passion for cooking has become bigger and bigger. When he’s cooking, he feels like an artist and every dish is a work of art. He has learned that each ingredient deserves respect and should not be wasted. Been through many hardships, he understands the value of food more than anyone else: “Why are we wasting food when there are so many people out there who have nothing to eat?”
Lang Lieu cooking class with Chef Cong
His enthusiasm in cooking was able to inspire anyone who has come to Lang Lieu’s cooking class to the love for Vietnamese cuisine. There are some customers decided to give him a laptop as a gift after listening to his story, they also advised Cong not to give up his passion for cooking even when he reaches his original dream.
The image of a young man in an apron today may be completely opposite from what the 18-year-old boy imagined 9 years ago. Life sometimes doesn’t go as we have planned, it can even ruthlessly deprive us of the right to pursue our dream. In that situation, a boy with empty hands has chosen to move forward instead of blaming fate and giving up. Although his dream is still unfinished, this tenacious man has affirmed that he had never regretted choosing this path. And today we can see a calm, dedicated chef in Lang Lieu restaurant’s kitchen. All the losses and grief were hidden in the past so that every dish he made was only filled with passion and love.
Mr. Nguyen Van Cong’s facts
A multi-talented artist: he not only knows how to cook well, repair vehicles, speak English fluently... he can also play the piano.
Success secret: He believes that the most important factor in cooking isn’t best ingredients or modern facilities, it’s the chef’s confidence.
Dreams: besides the dream of becoming an IT programmer, his current dream is to go abroad to spread Vietnamese cuisine.
If you come to Hanoi and want to know more about Vietnamese cuisine, let our experienced chef-Mr Cong accompany you.Spend time having fun with your friends and family, trying new recipes, meeting local people, listening to their stories,… we believe this 4-hour-cooking class will definitely make your journey much more meaningful.