About Chef Rang
A little background about my life when I was in Vietnam and my journey to Canada and the story of what inspired me to become a chef:
I grew up in Ca Na, Vietnam, a beautiful, innocent, slow and sleeping fisherman village located between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. When I was just 12 years old, my mother passed away from cancer. I remember my mom as the greatest. She took in homeless people feeding them, and giving them shelter. She was a great Vegetarian Chef who was a volunteer cook for the local Buddhist temple.
Mother and Cutie Me
Shortly after she passed away, I became a homeless boy and lived on the streets before a few local fisherman families took me in. While learning the trades I was used and abused, jumping from family to family, and given all the tough jobs on the fishing boats in return for food and shelter. In 1979, myself and a group of friends had decided to steal a local small fishing boat. We stole some food, water, and diesel, trying to escape Vietnam in search for freedom. Uneducated, with no idea where we were going or what our plan was, we set sail straight into the sun onto the great Pacific Ocean.
The Vietnamese boat people in the 80's
After 3 days out at sea, we ran out of our supplies. We were lost out on the rough, open, stormy Pacific ocean, and stranded for 15 long days. Finally, we landed at a Malaysian refugee camp on island Palau Bi-dong, where we were able to stay for a couple of years. Life in the refugee camp was still better than life in Vietnam.
Palau Bi-dong Island Refugee Camp
After 2 years on the refugee island a Catholic church from St. John's, Newfoundland sponsored a group of young kids with no families. In total, there were 12 of us together. We landed in St John's, Newfoundland in the early 80's.
Water Street, St. John's Newfoundland
It was a life-changing experience -- being a young boy from a small fishing village to living in a full, loving, protective, comfortable home. To me that was the life and the freedom I was looking for. I was learning English: words like "Hello" and "How are you?" were brand new to me. My first time seeing snow was in the middle of September. I remember how happy I was. I thought it was fun until the real Newfoundland winter weather hit me with snow up to the head. Having my first taste of western food -- the first dish I ever had was a quartered chicken, powdered gravy, mashed potatoes with canned green beans. At that time, I thought I was in heaven. I lived in a few foster homes; there were good ones and there were bad ones. Jumping from one to the other, along the way I made a few good friends. I got a lot of love and help from the Newfoundlanders. I was able to start my life and career in a way I would have never imagined. To this day, I still consider St. John's, Newfoundland my home and for the rest of my life, I would have friends and family that share these precious memories with me.
My first job was as a dishwasher at a local St John's seafood restaurant while I was in school and learning English. At that time, the job paid $2.75 an hour, and comparing to the life I was living in Vietnam, I thought I was the richest man in the world. While I was a dishwasher, I remember there was a small piece of poached salmon (Saumon en Papillote) on the plate leftover by a customer. I picked it up and gobbled that piece of salmon down so fast and it was the best piece of fish that I ever had. All the chefs were laughing at me, telling me to stop eating leftovers off of the plates. They started to feed me, and taught me how to cook. From that day on, I felt the love and the passion of cooking. I knew I would be the master and I would out-cook them all.
Saumon En Papillote
Finally I made it to high school, I don't know how, but I made it. In my couple years there, I met a few good nerd friends who helped me with my homework, teaching me English in exchange for martial arts / self defense lessons. I still keep in touch with some of them until today. One became a doctor and another became a prosecutor. Being an Asian refugee in Newfoundland, I had to deal with a lot of racism, both in high-school and on the streets. They weren't bad people, they just weren't used to seeing refugees or foreigners in St John's. I had to fight racism every week, but one big fight I never forgot was a young, big, fat, short, ugly, blocky, Irish boy, hockey player. His name was David Daly. I knocked him out cold with one kick and I got suspended from school for a week, but after that, we became good friends. The locals then gave me the nickname the Newfie Bruce Lee.
The Master and the Student
While in high-school, I got offered a job as a bouncer at 3 of the toughest clubs in St John's on Water St. I made a lot of money: a lot of free hash, weed, and all the different types of drugs. I never did use drugs in my life, so I gave it all to my friends for their personal use. By that time I experienced the good, the bad and the ugly.
God dammit I didn't remember I had solid abs!
Finishing high school at Bishop College, I landed a job as a line cook at the Fishing Admiral Seafood Restaurant on Water St. As a young fisherman back home, I understood all the fresh ingredients, having a lot of knowledge about seafood. After learning and training under French Chefs, I was able create my own unique twist of east and west dishes.
Paying respects and expressing my love for the Rock
I left Newfoundland for Toronto looking for better jobs and a better opportunity. I worked at a few local well known French restaurants in the GTA. I was a head chef at Le Select Bistro for 7 years. I eventually got my Red Seal certificate, training and mentoring a lot of young chefs in Toronto. One of them was a young chef named Matty Matheson.
Matty and I working on line together
I helped and trained him into his new career as a young cook. Matthew would eventually become one of the most well known celebrity influencer chefs in the world. Our friendship, both personal and professional remains unwavered. Going on his way to success, he took me along to become part of travel and cooking documentaries called "Dead Set on Live" and "It's Supper Time: Cooking TV Show" on Viceland. He introduced me social media and being on TV cooking shows. It was a fun experience becoming a celebrity chef. Having a drink after working a long, hard night
As a caterer, private chef and restaurant consultant, I very much still enjoy cooking for people and mentoring a lot of up and coming young chefs, inspiring them to get into the culinary industry. I consider myself to be the best of the best, and the most handsome chef in the city.
Love what you do, do what you love, goddammit, that's my mojo.
Love what you do, do what you love, goddammit, that's my mojo.