Published on June 15th, 2015 | by Pierfrancesco GENNARO | Credit: New European Days - Cultures United Festival0
“Have passion in what you do, always!” Read our Interview with ‘Little Asia’ Reknown Chef, Quyên Truong Thi
Last weekend, our Cultures United Festival took place in Brussels and among all the communities participating, we at UNITEE were lucky to have the local Vietnamese community BVA- Belgian Vietnamese Alliance as well as its founder and Managing Director,Ms Quyên Truong Thi.
Ms Quyên Truong Thi is also the owner of the most famous and successful Vietnamese restaurant in Belgium (we are talking about Little Asia on Rue Sainte-Catherine in Brussels). Proof of her success, she has already published three books which went bestselling and has appeared in many TV programmes.
I have had the pleasure of interviewing her and we discovered that her life was quite an adventure.
It all started with her father, who left Vietnam to look for a better future outside of his country torn by the Vietnam War and who ended up sailing with other 50 people for days with no food and no water. He was by chance rescued by a Belgian ship named Bruges and brought to Singapore with those who were strong enough to survive the sea. Ms Truong Thi’s father was one of those lucky ones, though the price he paid was to have left his family behind, a wife and six children.
After two months in the city-state, they were transferred to Belgium where he started working hard, doing anything was needed (from cleaning to gardening) just to be able to pay plane tickets and bring his family to his new home. After five long years, he was able to buy seven one-way tickets from Saigon to Brussels.
«In 1986, my family and I took the plane from Saigon to Bangkok, to Bombay, to Amsterdam, and finally to Brussels, having no money and no luggage with us, but knowing that Belgium would be our “American Dream” », said Ms Truong Thi. While listening to her, I was hit by the simplicity and humbleness of her words.
She studied and worked hard in the following years after her arrival and among her successes, she can count the opening (with her sister) of the first Manga Shop in Brussels in 1994, a first example of her remarkable entrepreneurial mindset. However, after five years, to quote her, “the hype on manga was over” and she took the decision to abandon it and opened her own Vietnamese restaurant in 1999.
After buying the whole building (only five years after the opening) and after having completely renovated the menu and the restaurant itself, she was able to turn her business from a very small, low-budget dining place into a sophisticated haute cuisine restaurant receiving extremely positive reviews on local magazines and being always fully booked; she made it, from Quy Nhon to Brussels, from zero to hero.
When asked about how the double culture has defined her, she has no doubt: «Working hard is part of my Vietnamese heritage, while the concept of knowing how to enjoy life comes from my Belgian part», said Ms Truong Thi.
This double culture has also influenced her style in cuisine; she cooks ancient Vietnamese recipes but she only uses seasonal and local products (like the famous cuckoo Malines) blending South Eastern traditions with Western European culinary delicacies.
Needless to say, quality has to be always at the top when it comes to food and to cook: «I always chose quality, quality is number one…no compromise on this. Health comes from what we eat, there is no need to eat everything, eat few things but eat well», said Ms Truong Thi.
When asked about advices to give to young entrepreneurs who are willing to venture in the ‘restaurants business’ «Be focused 100% and have passion in what you do. If you work for money, there will not be any positive energy coming back to you, always».
Chef Truong Thi is a great example of how blending two (or more) cultures can enhance your view on the world and result in a positive contribution to your life.
To read our previous article on BVA, click here.