A selection of top students from Viet Nam and New Zealand brought their world-class fusion menus prestigious gala dinner in Ho Chi Minh City. The Gala Dinner saw Vietnamese and New Zealand cuisine, culinary skills and collaboration come alive.

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.

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

Team three took out the tip prize with their braised lamb shanks with pickled cabbage, potato rosti and reduced jus that proved especially popular on the night with a score of 79 out of 100.

The winning team included AUT student Jamin Gibson, Otago Polytechnic student Emma Wasser, Phan Van Lam from Viet Giao Tourism School and Nguyen Ngoc Quan from the VATEL International Business School Hotel and Tourism Management.

“It is so amazing that we won the competition,” said Emma Waser. “We have gelled so well as a team throughout the whole competition but on the night we worked especially well together. We had to delve into each other’s cultures and traditions to come up with our fusion menu. I have learned how important it is to mix it up, to use different flavours and borrow from other traditions and cuisines. It has been amazing to come to Viet Nam and see what else is out there in the world, to find out more about different cultures, different people and different food. I was blown away by how talented our Vietnamese team mates were and hope I can work with them again one day.”

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 in early June. The students spent 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 Name Strategic Plan on Education which was signed during Minister Joyce’s most recent visit to Viet Nam in November last year. The plan was designed to deepen the level of engagement between the two countries and enrich student’s learning.