Le Rin, born in the south-central Vietnamese province of Ninh Thuan, is a professional food artist, whose job is to paint and depict Vietnamese dishes on paper.
So far, the young artist has produced over 200 paintings of Vietnamese dishes and published an art book called “Vietnam Mien Ngon,” loosely translated as ‘delicious dishes across Vietnam,’ which was written in both Vietnamese and English.
Destined for the odd profession
After graduating with a major in industrial design from the Saigon Technology University in Ho Chi Minh City, Le Rin worked as a graphic designer at a well-known fashion brand, but he decided to quit the job after around four years.
Taking advantage of the time he had at that moment, the adventurous artist embarked on a backpack trip on a motorbike through the southern and central parts of Vietnam.
“During the ten days of my trip, I have been to many provinces in south-central Vietnam, and was lucky enough to taste various local dishes of those areas,” Le Rin recalled his first spark of motivation in an interview with Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper.
Hence, the young designer began with dishes that were familiar to him including canh chua ca hu (sour soup with fish) and banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich), among others.
As most of his first artworks were just occasional inspirations rather than a carefully thought-out project, Rin at first only considered his illustrating Vietnamese cuisine a hobby to fill his spare time.
Little did he expect that the hobby would turn into a day job.
As the young artist lived away from his family, he did not dare to tell his family about his new ‘job’ so as not to worry them, as they might think he was unemployed.
Luckily, Le Rin received strong support from his friends and soon set out a clear plan tofinish "Vietnam Mien Ngon," a collection of over 100 well-known Vietnamese dishes from northern, central, and southern Vietnam.
The book is intended to become a picture dictionary introducing amazing Vietnamese cuisine to the world.
So far, the young artist has completed paintings of over 200 Vietnamese dishes and some Japanese ones, according to Thanh Nien.
Even though many of these are his favorite dishes and common in Vietnamese daily life, he claims each drawing has many challenges which rarely repeat themselves.
Overall, for Rin, now based in Ho Chi Minh City, the most challenging dishes to draw are the northern ones as he has not had many chances to get to know them.
Each picture takes Le Rin an average of three to four hours to complete. However, some dishes are more challenging and take a lot more time.
For instance, Le Rin was only content with his illustration of bun bo (rice noodles with beef) in the third attempt.
One of the easiest dishes for Le Rin is banh mi as it is his favorite food and something he has been eating since he was a child.
Another challenging aspect of the job is to make sure the pieces of art do not repeat themselves and each becomes an individual, unique artwork.
Hence, Le Rin always spends time thinking how to make sure the art pieces do not look alike in both the way they are presented and depicted.
“For me, the most important thing while drawing food is to depict how delicious and attractive it is," he said.
“If I cannot make the picture attractive for the eyes, how is it supposed to attract the taste?”
Even though many think it is a simple job, it takes more than just a look at the dish to be able to illustrate it the way Le Rin does.
Before indulging himself in any piece, he tries to learn about it as much as possible including the ingredients, and how it is cooked, among other aspects.
Although these may seem as excessive tasks, they significantly improve Rin’s imagination and make it easier for him to perfectly depict the dishes.
Despite this, he does not deny the necessity of good art skills to be able to draw Vietnamese dishes.
The job that he created for himself has received lots of support not just from friends.
For Rin, the most important thing remains his love for work.
“Each morning I wake up to the job I love,” the young artist said. “The thing that makes me happy the most is that many people are familiar with my name and every time they talk about food depicting, they think of me.”