Good Morning Vietnam (part 7) by Shane Brierly

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th August 2011

Shane Brierly is a New Zealand born Executive Chef who spent most of his culinary career in Australia from the tender age of 18 which is many moons ago. Now old and grizzled, he loves the expat life and so far has worked in Dubai UAE, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Vietnam.

His website is chef-a-gogo.com which has photos, food & recipes from both his day to day cheffing  and also the more exotic side of his travels. Or follow him on twitter @chefshane.

Part 7 - It's tiiiiime.......The Matrix Unveiled. To read Part 6 click here

I am gaining today's inspiration from amongst the clatter at a cosmopolitan cafe.  Cosmopolitan because I am here, and mine is the only white face on the street.  I'm back in the thick of it, slurping my honey-thick morning medication, rolling the syrupy nectar around my mouth and closing my eyes like Ratatouille making a soup, appreciating the difference of a good Vietnamese coffee. We just got back from an overseas jaunt around Laos and Thailand which gives a whole fresh perspective on 'home' here in Vietnam.  I just realised it had been a year since I arrived in Da Nang. Life is going well with all of the associated ups and downs - you never get rid of them entirely - they just get easier to negotiate it would seem. Reality is a funny thing, in that only you actually have one.  Everyone else's life is a fantasy of sorts, and you seem to be stuck here in reality, an unchanging set of circumstances and events that one must persevere grimly with. I realised quite a few years ago with a blinding flash that reality is very different for every individual. Even those that seem the same, look the same, and live next door to each other.  It's our unique approach to everything that happens (or doesn't happen!) that shunts us from one incident or opportunity to another.  It is easy to become embroiled in a stagnant reality, unable to make a move, working and living in some giant matrix-style treadmill. Paying bills, cooking food, trying to make ends meet.   There is another reality out there.   It took me a wee while to escape from the matrix. The uniform room wasn't convinced about my need for a long black leather coat either. Part of it is about realising that we aren't necessarily 'better off', that we aren't always  'living the dream' and that there are other options, lifestyles, tastes, jobs, interests and  realities out there. Travel is great for this.  You can end up thrust into centre stage in a totally different reality, or mirror a fantasy you have held for years, beckoning Kiwi Australian chefs to come to your table and do your bidding and have them make ice cream amongst plumes of smoke in some Southeast Asian paradise. Whether you go for the tailor-made luxury retreat or the rough-as-guts DIY camping trip you are escaping the daily grind, recharging the batteries and exposing yourself to a new set of challenges, values, experiences.   More importantly you return with different perspectives.  Honing our perspective is maintenance for the greatest tool that we have - our outlook. It has been said that it is not what happens to us that matters, but our response. Too True.   And our response is conditioned by our training, our background, our reality.  A fresh perspective on what we see and do every day expands our repertoire of possibilities.   Getting out and about shows us that different people and places handle the same problem in different ways. That the same ingredients make different things, and that what we thought was great can sometimes be total hype and crap when outside of that hermetically sealed consumer environment. In our own society we can be good people and do what we are supposed to do, rebel the way we are supposed to rebel, and express our grievances through the right outlets until we retire. And follow all of the rules.  Or we can excise ourselves from this reality every now and then and do what we do with a keen, knowing eye, lifting our game as we expand our repertoire, creativity and abilities. Doesn't have to be a holiday either. Working overseas, reading a good book, being in touch with a  diverse group of friends & colleagues, using the net effectively, networking - all are great tools. For me? Eating, drinking and exploring was exactly what the doctor ordered.  I learned that the constant car horns here ARE really unusual and bloody annoying. That awesome Thai & Laos coffee doesn't hold a candle to a rich sticky Vietnamese drip brew.   That people in all three countries are pretty awesome - just very different. That being back in the big city has its advantages.  That Da Nang really is a very special place and is great to come home to. And: That the staff canteen waits for no man. Special thanks this month to: The Mighty Mekong River for a 2 day slow boat trip and a sand fly bite that made my lip look like Angelina Jolie in a porn shoot. Tropical Storm Nok Ten - for tracking my route across Asia and ensuring a reliable nightly rainfall. Lebua State Tower for amazing views of Bangkok and a light, airy spacious suite. The Indian restaurant at Pak Beng for an unforgettable food experience <shudder> Thailand and Laos for too much amazing food in too short a time to eat it all. Vietnam Airlines for not looking pissed off and fighting over what was definitely excess baggage. Top Job.

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th August 2011

Good Morning Vietnam (part 7) by Shane Brierly