Vu Hoang Trinh knew she was going against the grain when she chose to skip university and follow her culinary dream.
Trinh has become an inspiring figure, boasting accomplishments any up-and-coming chef would be jealous of.
The 21-year-old chef represented Vietnam at the WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 culinary competition and was awarded with distinction.
She has since become a role model for young Vietnamese seeking culinary glory.
Love for pastries
By grade 10, Trinh had already chosen her career path.
The young chef’s passion for pastries gave her the strength and certainty to declare to her parents: “I am not going to take the entrance exam to university. I want to become a chef!”
“Ever since I was a child, I was curious and interested in different types of pastries,” Trinh said.
Her parents, on the other hand, needed some time to process their daughter’s plan.
“When I decided to pursue a culinary career, my father thought about it for a while and then told me, ‘You can learn whatever you want. This is your decision. You’re the one making it come true. Mom and I are just here to support you’,” she shared.
Despite her passion, making a name for herself in the culinary world was no easy task.
Even after starting her vocational training, Trinh admitted to feeling self-conscious as she watched her friends go off to college.
This feeling soon disappeared as the love for her profession emerged.
Learning new techniques and recipes excited the young cook. Soon, her training was filled with days of cooking-related practice and theory alongside English learning.
Trinh admitted that “studying and working are two different things. It was not until I took part in the competition that I realized how difficult it is to work in a kitchen. It’s very stressful.”
A stressful profession
Vu Hoang Trinh took part in the competition during her second year of vocational school.
The first round of the competition took place in Ho Chi Minh City, followed by three months of preparation in Hanoi and a regional level competition in Malaysia.
After winning the regional competition, Trinh spent another five months in Hanoi before traveling to Saudi Arabia to compete in the 44th WorldSkills competition.
“At first I was very confident and found everything quite easy. When I was studying in school or competing in Vietnam, I never had to slaughter a chicken or gut a fish. Everything was already prepared for me,” Trinh said.
Each day of the four-day contest included four hours of competition.
According to Trinh, the final contest required participants to cope with several complex demands and create more dishes than the previous rounds.
One of the most stressful moments was during a real-life practice scenario when the contestants were required to serve guests in restaurants.
According to Trinh, the kitchen would turn into a battleground as each customer entered the restaurant.
Between memorizing the menu, recipes, and garnish for each dish, each second was valuable and competition was fierce.
Despite the stress, passion for her profession helped the young star rise to the top of the pack.
In spite of her success, Trinh still focuses on improving her strength, professional attitude, and behavior toward her colleagues.
Since beginning her culinary journey, the 21-year-old has already worked in positions spanning the food industry in order to fully identify her own weaknesses and learn about the working environment and upcoming obstacles she may face.
However, earning recognition at the WorldSkills completion proved that her hard work has paid off.
As Trinh openly shared, “After the competition, coming back to school seems very easy.”
Plans for the future
Having won the WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 competition, the young cook’s future is undoubtedly filled with opportunities.
“I think there is not a lack of jobs. The question is whether or not one is able to seize the opportunity. Hence, it is very important to consider one’s interest, passion, and ability when choosing a career,” Trinh confidently shared.
The woman intends to work in Ho Chi Minh City or Da Nang, in the central part of Vietnam, for a few years to have enough money to open her own bakery and return to her passion for pastries.
Trinh is determined to improve her culinary skills and foreign language command so that she might have the opportunity to travel abroad.
Inspiring the youth
Pham Thi Anh Tuyet, born in 1997, learnt about Vu Hoang Trinh after two months of attending culinary school.
Having seen Trinh competing at the WorldSkills Abu Dhabi as a representative from Vietnam was an inspiration for Tuyet.
“Trinh inspired me to be more motivated, more passionate about my career, and take part in more competitions. I cannot even remember how many competitions I have taken part in, both large and small,” Tuyet said.
Last year, Anh Tuyet won first prize at The Young Talent Escoffier Vietnam 2017 competition, earning the chance to represent Vietnam at the regional competition in Hong Kong where she brought home the bronze medal.
Tuyet says: “A [bachelor’s] degree might not be important, but ability and passion are crucial. Without them, you cannot get anywhere.”