Charlie don't surf the web son - Culinary Inspirations by Richard Bias

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st January 2012
Chef, cook, traveller, and all round lover of food:   I’m Richard Bias and work in Northern Vietnam in the old French hill station town of Sapa, 36km away from the Chinese border and 380km or 8 hours away from the nearest city and airport.  Why?  Good question.   Why not?  As I have had many jobs in various countries this post doesn’t seem out of the ordinary to me. I still cook to a high standard in a hotel that tries its best to keep up with international standards and I still have to manage food and beverage costs and most of all:  I still make guests happy. I started my journey in the kitchen of Simpsons-in- the-Strand, London, where good British fare is served and I learnt the values and camaraderie of kitchen life. From there I moved to the coastal town of Poole, Dorset where I learnt the importance of organization and fresh food along with many other valuable lessons that have seen me in good stead over the years. Some stints in London and Cornwall at various restaurants gave me the knowledge and thirst to see what was outside of my beautiful country. So I made the first small step to Ireland which proved to be a giant leap. I worked at the Marriott in County Wicklow where the Exec Chef was full of enthusiasm. Hearing his life stories gave me the inspiration to move to Dubai where I worked at the seven-star flagship hotel affectionately known as “The Burj” This opened my eyes to the world and what it had to offer.  I learnt from the best and saw the best of what the world had to offer in such high opulence you would not believe. Caviar eaten by the kilo with breakfast toast or gold-plated wagyu steaks,! It was an eye-opener to be sure and the best learning journey I have taken. Dreams were talked about in the canteen like they could actually happen and opportunities were handed out like cards at the casino. If ever the saying were more believable it was from this position I could really say it: “It’s not always what you know, it’s who you know!”  This was a melting pot for young chefs like me to do our time then move on because, as they say:  “The world is your oyster”.  So I did:  then after a couple of years found myself as Sous Chef in the Intercontinental Hotel in Cambodia. I learnt a lot about man-management here, also about the culture and living in a country in which I didn’t really belong but in time became accepted as one of the team. Every country has its differences and its problems both for you as an expat and also the hardships for the locals who are trying to climb the economic ladder. I spent two years here working hard and discovering a lot about the people and how to deal with various situations. Sometimes to overlook something is not so bad but also to be tough when needed is very important. We kept high standards of hygiene which was awkward at first as their standard of living does not teach them any of this from the beginning but over two years we got to where we wanted to be and passed our FSMS review. The first in South East Asia! Whilst in Cambodia I had a call from a friend of a friend which resulted in an interview for a position back in the sandpit (Dubai) as Chef de Cuisine for a new company. This was to be a new concept which was set to turn the F&B world up-side down.  I made the move but it was to be short-lived as the economic crisis dulled the sunny skies of the Middle-East and we never opened the hotel and I was released. Ehotelier is a job finder’s dream and is a great resource which is where I saw the advertisement: Amazing mountain location, small boutique hotel, 77 rooms, one restaurant, in the Tonkin Alps. I checked the website and sent off my CV:  the rest you say is history! Three years on I’m still here minus a six-week break for the Football World Cup in South Africa. I have a great position in a great company which allows me to change the menus as much as I like.  I can travel to find great ingredients in the many local markets which lead to endless discoveries from week to week and thus enable me to create some very unique dishes. Don’t get me wrong,  I have some difficulties:  the language barrier is the hardest and many times I will have to show, do it or even draw it myself first to be understood but once the guys can do it they are very consistent. Supplies are the next biggest challenge with all imported items arriving via an eight-hour bus or train ride but with good organization and large storage space this becomes easier and easier. Vietnam as a country is so long with all the different climates and temperatures it probably has everything: you just have to get out there and find it. I hope you will follow my blog and discover what this vast country has to offer and with it learn of all the trials and tribulations which go with it.  Follow Richard's Blog here  

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st January 2012

Charlie don't surf the web son - Culinary Inspirations by Richard Bias