CHEF SERIES: Award-Winning Chef Viet Pham’s Unique Culinary Path (Part 1 of 3)
Part One: In the first of this three-part series, learn about award-winning chef Viet Pham, what drives him, how he defeated Iron Chef Bobby Flay and what’s next for him.
From defeating celebrity chef Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America to earning multiple James Beard Award nominations to being named one of Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs, Utah-based chef Viet Pham has certainly been busy making a name for himself.
Yet, it wasn’t always so glamorous. Humble beginnings and hard work have guided Chef Pham’s award-winning culinary career.
In April 2016, Pham and business partner, chef Bowman Brown, decided to close their highly acclaimed Salt-Lake City restaurant, Forage. Since it’s opening in 2009, Forage was hailed as “ingenious modernist food” that was “groundbreaking,” and “daring.” The restaurant introduced a new level of dining to Salt Lake City, so it was quite the surprise when the chefs decided to close the doors, but then again, that is the restaurant industry.
After a small break, Chef Pham is at it again, this time, bringing one of the nation’s hottest food trends—Nashville Style Hot Chicken—to Salt Lake City. Slated to open later this year, Pretty Bird is already generating buzz.
So what is it that sets Chef Viet Pham apart?
Pham was born in a Malaysian refugee camp after his parents fled Vietnam during the war. He was five months old when they moved to the US. In the late ‘80s, his family moved to California, where they lived in a cramped townhouse with three other Vietnamese immigrant families—it was here that his love of food began.
With memories of large family meals and classic Vietnamese cuisine, food became a large part of Pham’s upbringing. He learned to cook for the family as his parents worked long hours. Pham’s talent in the kitchen was immediately obvious, sending him on a path that resulted in him graduating from the California Culinary Institute and eventually opening his own restaurant in Salt Lake City.
Pham was named one of Food and Wine‘s Best New Chefs in 2011. His winning streak continued in 2012, when he beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America. He went on to appear on the second season of Extreme Chef, was a finalist on the TV show Food Network Star on season 9 and has been a three-time semi-finalist for the James Beard Award.
He may have come from humble beginnings, but his knack for turning simple, high quality ingredients into one-of-a-kind dishes has garnered him international attention.
From foraging to food security, we explore what inspires Chef Pham in part 2 and 3 of this series.