Phung

Not many people know that one of the first airports to be constructed in Vietnam was actually in Phan Rang City, approximately 370km northeast of Saigon on the southern coast, which is where Phung was born and raised.

But it was when she arrived in Ho Chi Minh City back in 2008, that her hospitality career really took off. 

Phung began her career at the illustrious Ngoc Suong Seafood, a key reference on the Saigon dining scene that first flung open their doors 64 years ago during Saigon's fabulous 50s.

From here, Phung went to work with Saigon’s “Party Liaison Officer” Emile Ho Bao Loc at the renowned Plan B Champagne Bistro on Hai Ba Trung Street, District 1 which until 2014, was where the “great and the good” of Saigon gathered.

A brief lay over at Lebanese themed nightspot Beirut followed, before she teamed up with one of Saigon’s favourite chef’s, Sakal Phoeung.

Sakal had just finished his contract at Sofitel Saigon Plaza and was ready to open French-inspired bistro Le Corto on Nguyen Sieu Street, also in District 1, where I first met Phung at the grand opening party. 

Since then, our paths have crossed on many occasions at Le Corto when I've attended many of their acclaimed wine diners – some of which we collaborated on together. 

I always describe Phung as the glue that holds the operation together. Managers and staff might come and go, but Phung is omnipresent, someone who offers that light but assured touch that guarantees a warm welcome and attentive service.

Indeed, Phung was a key member of the team that welcomed French President Francois Hollande to Le Corto in 2016. Hollande was the first French President to visit its former colony in 12 years, booking the entire restaurant for his entourage of 36 guests. 

Surrounded by such Gallic influence, it’s no surprise that Phung is an admirer of French cuisine, especially foie gras, oysters, escargot, and decadent cheese fondue often paired with her favourite glass of a crisp Sancerre.

But on a day off, it’s Japanese cuisine that's her “go to” and she loves all kinds of sashimi, sea urchin, yakitori and the savory egg chawanmushi. 

Phung’s flight path has taken her to her current destination – P’Ti Saigon – the sister restaurant to Le Corto in the salubrious surroundings of Thao Dien in Saigon's District 2, where she's enjoying her role as restaurant manager. – Chris Thompson

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