Ara student cooking in Ho Chi Minh

News News & events

08 Jun 2016

On Monday 6 June Ho Chi Minh City saw the very best of Vietnamese and New Zealand cuisine, culinary skills and collaboration as a selection of top students from both countries brought their world-class fusion menus to life at a prestigious Gala Dinner.

The three teams, each consisting of two Vietnamese and two New Zealand students, showcased their outstanding culinary skills on stage in front of over 170 guests including the New Zealand Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment the Hon Steven Joyce.


From left Minister for Tertairy Education, Skills and Employment Stephen Joyce with students Ryan Prouting, Nguyen Thuy Tra Giang, Trịnh Xuân Hoàng and Tuainekore Taringa.

Ara Level 5 Professional Cookery student Ryan Prouting and his team achieved the highest single score for a dish and narrowly missed out on first place.

His team scored 77 out of 100 points, making them second in the competition and only two points behind the winning team for their spicy baked mussels entrée, lamb rack with coconut and cauliflower puree, ginger rice and peanut pesto and coconut dacquoise dessert. The team got the highest single score for a dish with judge Brendon Partridge, Executive Chef at JW Marriott in Hanoi scoring their dessert a massive 9.9. out of 10. Brendon commented that the dessert was of restaurant quality.

The guests were treated to a selection of dishes from the students' three-course fusion menus, while the three official judges: Haike Manning, New Zealand Ambassador to Viet Nam; Le Xuan Tam, Executive Chef, Caravelle Hotel and Brendon Partridge, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Hanoi; sampled all of the student's dishes throughout the evening.

The experience taught 19-year-old Ryan many professional and team skills that he can now apply to his training and his work at fine dining restaurant Chillingworth Road.

Before this collaboration competition and working with my Vietnamese teammates I had never used a proper wok before. My knowledge of different flavours and different styles of cooking has grown so much throughout this competition. We deep fried lemongrass as a garnish, I never would have thought of doing this had it not been the influence and suggestion of my Vietnamese team mates.

"We worked really well together as a team and I would love to work with them all again at some point in the future. When I finish my studies I want to work in kitchens all over the world to continue learning from the best and continually improve and learn new things," he said.

His teammates were Cook Islander Tuainekore Taringa from New Zealand Academy Ltd, also studying a Cookery Level 5 Diploma, Trịnh Xuân Hoàng from Viet Giao Tourism School and Nguyen Thuy Tra Giang from VATEL International Business School Hotel & Tourism Management.

"I am so impressed with my Kiwi team mates. They have so much knowledge and are so organised in the way they prepare. After meeting and working with them it is my dream to study culinary arts in New Zealand and work in the tourism industry." said Nguyen Thuy Tra Giang.

The Gala Dinner was the culmination of the New Zealand – Viet Nam Culinary Collaboration and two months of hard work for the three teams. The students were tasked in April with a real-life brief – to design a three-course menu that would showcase the best of New Zealand and Vietnamese cuisine, culinary techniques and local ingredients from each country.

The students initially worked together online to develop their menus under the guidance of culinary mentor and 2013 MasterChef New Zealand finalist, Vanessa Baxter, before meeting face-to-face in Ho Chi Minh City on 3 June. The students have spent the past three days visiting Vietnamese markets to collect their fresh local produce before finalising their menus at the Caravalle Hotel kitchen.

The New Zealand – Viet Nam Culinary Collaboration was an initiative designed under the New Zealand – Viet Nam Strategic Plan on Education which was signed during Minister Joyce's most recent visit to Viet Nam in November 2015.The plan was designed to deepen the level of engagement between the two countries and enrich students' learning. The signing was also witnessed by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn.

The New Zealand – Viet Nam Culinary Collaboration is yet another example of the growing education relationship between our two countries. While it has been fantastic to see the outstanding teamwork between the students, tonight's Gala Dinner was also an opportunity to showcase New Zealand institutions' vocational expertise and our education system's world-renowned practical application of skills which prepare students for the working world," said Grant McPherson, Chief Executive, Education New Zealand.

"I am certain that over the last two months the students have learnt a huge amount about each other's cultures and developed knowledge that can be applied to our bilateral relationship in future years.

"With 60 percent of Vietnam's population under 30 years old the Vietnam government is very focused on improving education standards so that students can play a central role in Vietnam's development. New Zealand's high quality education system and expertise in vocational training make us well placed to deliver more joint education initiatives focused on building skills for the Vietnamese workforce and attracting more Vietnamese students to study in New Zealand,"  added Mr McPherson.

Minister Joyce travelled to Vietnam on Air New Zealand's inaugural direct flight from Auckland to Ho Chi Minh City on 4 June. This new service is set to further build bilateral links between New Zealand and Vietnam, while also providing an additional benefit to prospective Vietnamese students looking at New Zealand as an international study destination.