I've just returned from a life-changing three-week trip through Vietnam and Cambodia. I was humbled and inspired by the “Tiger” Women I met during my travels, and have so many insights to share from my conversations with them. Here’s the second in a series of posts on the surprising and fascinating things I learned while traveling through rural countryside.
Building a delicious empire
Cooking and eating are two of my great joys in life, so as I was planning my trip I began to research cooking classes offered in Vietnam. Ms. Vy's classes quickly rose to the top of my wish list! She is a third generation cook whose family recipes have garnered recognition throughout the country, and she is generous enough to share her masterful skills with enthusiastic students.
Her story is a truly inspirational one! In 1992 Trinh Diem Vy opened her first restaurant, Mermaid, in her hometown of Hội An. It quickly became a destination for international diners and travelers, and she eagerly began to expand her empire. In 1994 she started offering cooking classes, and soon afterwards opened the Market Restaurant and Cooking School which still welcomes hundreds of students every year. More restaurants followed, and Ms. Vy now runs Cargo Club (a gorgeous café and patisserie) and Morning Glory in addition to Mermaid and the school.
In 2012, she published Taste Vietnam: The Morning Glory Cookbook, which sold more than 10,000 copies in its first two years in print. This is not a woman who rests on her laurels, but a driven, whip-smart entrepreneur!
A warm and welcoming teacher
I took just one class with Ms. Vy, but learned so much from her in a short period of time. The class included a boat trip from the Market Restaurant to Hoi An’s colorful central market and a lively tour of the market itself, followed by a master class that started with live cooking demonstrations and wrapped up with two hours of hands-on tutorials. We learned to make spring rolls and noodle dishes, and got to sample many other outstanding local delicacies.
Ms. Vy was a patient and meticulous teacher. As she demonstrated traditional cooking and prepping techniques, her deep passion for food and cooking shone through. Ms. Vy hasplayed an important role in keeping traditional recipes alive in her region, and it was clear that she took tremendous pride in her work as a chef and teacher.
Many Westerners cling to the outdated stereotype of the Asian woman as quiet, meek, and retiring. Ms. Vy was never overbearing or strident, but her deep knowledge, intense passion for her craft, and incredible list of accomplishments made it clear that she was anything but meek! She has single-handedly created a world-renowned brand, a fleet of successful restaurants, and a thriving cooking school. Meeting her made it crystal clear to me that assuming Asian women will sit quietly in the background of their own lives is a huge mistake. Ms. Vy is a shining example of a talented, driven woman who honors her inner tiger every day.