Over the past few months, dozens of young, up-and-coming bartenders in Vietnam mixed their hearts out in heats and finals with the dream of being adjudged the country’s next Diageo World Class winner.

In the end, there was only one challenger left standing, and that was 24-year old bar manager of Layla Eatery & Bar in Saigon, Thep Dinh.

Just five years ago, Thep was struggling with his university studies in Japan and wasn’t quite sure what to do or where to turn.

In the end, he turned to bartending and mixology.

Now, he’s about to pack his bags for Glasgow as Vietnam’s newly-crowned Diageo World Class winner to mix it up with the world’s best.

After the excitement of the win had settled, we caught up with Thep for a quick sip.

Here’s what we asked him between sips.

B: Describe the feeling of winning the recent Diageo World Class Vietnam Final.

TD: As in every competition I participate, my thoughts are always about acceptance, that is, accepting failure and trying to remind myself to keep moving forward and to never backdown.

The moment I heard my name announced as the winner, I told myself not to be arrogant and that my responsibility now was to demonstrate pride in my country, Vietnam pride, and to put Vietnam on the FB world map.

B: What are you looking forward to doing first when you arrive in Glasgow?

TD: First checking that I have all my stuff for the six days of competition! I’m concerned that things might get damaged so I’ll have to make sure I have that under control.

B: What advice do you have for bartenders planning to enter competitions like the Diageo World Class?

TD: Be confident and believe in yourself. Practice and learn everyday. Know your path and follow it and don’t lose sight of it.

B: Who has been your biggest supporter or mentor, and what have they done to support or mentor you?

TD: I learn from every lesson, so everyone is also my teacher. Life is a lesson!

My biggest supporters have been my girlfriend, my bosses Jay and Annie (Layla Eatery & Bar), my family, my teammates and, of course, my customers.

B: What’s your philosophy when it comes to customer service?

TD: Love what you do and understand that insight can transform anything, so do your job with as much love and insight as possible.

B: What’s one of the biggest differences you’ve noticed with how Vietnamese customers expect to be served compared to non-Vietnamese customers?

TD: There’s no difference. We’re all human. There’s only one way to serve, and that’s with all your heart.

B: Which “less-famous” cocktail do you wish people would order more at Layla Eatery & Bar?

TD: To be honest, I don’t have a preference. We want our customers to try all of our cocktails, both signature and classic!

B: When you’re not drinking at Layla Eatery & Bar after a shift, where do you go to unwind?

TD: I usually go straight home after my shift and watch anime!

B: What does the future hold for Thep Dinh?

TD: I’m on a mission to inspire and motivate people, especially the young generation.

Layla Eatery & Bar is on the 2nd floor at 63 Dong Du St., District 1, HCMC

For more about Layla, go to https://www.facebook.com/LaylaEateryandBarHCM/

Photos provided by Thep Dinh

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