World Chefs: Pham follows instinct on forage, career

Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:20am EDT
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Viet Pham follows his instinct on the wild flowers and plants he picks outside Salt Lake City where founded his acclaimed restaurant Forage with fellow chef Bowman Brown three years ago.

Forage features ambitious dishes inspired by what Pham finds on his forages.

He is now planning a solo project in Salt Lake City that revolves around "a lot seafood and a lot of cooking over fire."

The 33-year old, who was born in a refugee camp in Malaysia and moved to the United States when he was five-month old, spoke to Reuters of his journey on becoming a chef and his experiments with plants he find around Salt Lake City.

Q: Where did the love of your cooking come from?

A: "We grew up very poor. My parents were boat people. They came to the United States in the late 70s. When we first came here, we lived with two families like my uncle and aunt. During dinner time when we really got together and there's a lot of kids. That early part of my life I was introduced to food and family. Then growing up, my dad worked the graveyard shift and my mom worked during the day. My brother and I would start cooking these ramen noodles. After so many times you get bored of it. I remember vividly I chopped hot dogs and threw them in there. After we got bored of the broth, we poured it out and stir-fried the noodles and added a bunch of things to it.

Q: When did you decide on a career as a chef?

A: "I haven't been cooking as long as some of the cooks out there. I went to culinary school in 2001 after dropping out of college as a business major. I worked at a restaurant called the Sixth Floor with Laurent Gras in San Francisco. I worked for about two years and then I left doing other things like banking. I got into real estate. But deep down, I knew what my passion was which is cooking. But I got caught up in this mode about you need have to make a lot of money to have a good living. I made a decent amount of money but I was never really happy."   Continued...

American chef Viet Pham posed in his restaurant Forage in an undated handout photo. REUTERS/Courtesy of Viet Pham