We had the pleasure of documenting and spending 48 hours with chef Bao La in Đà Lạt, Vietnam, in the form of a visual journal with snapshots taken by Chuong Pham and Karen Thao La.
Prior to this visit, we’ve hosted two dinner pop-ups with Bao at Que by Kaarem. Each time, Bao has created menus that combine his inspiration with local ingredients in unexpected ways, reckon back to: Vegemite butter and cheeseburger spring rolls! Previously, we’ve chatted and ate with Bao over Zoom and have accompanied him around the local wet markets in Thị Nghè, Sài Gòn.
When he’s not in Sài Gòn collaborating with us, he's back at his family home in Đà Lạt—a city located just an eight hour bus ride away, with the charming nickname “Đà Lạt Thành Phố Mộng Mơ” (Dream City); it enchants us with its relaxed pace of life, crisp air and lush landscapes.
We’ve been following Bao on social media ( @bao_la and @lafamilyfarm) and if you are like us, we too are salivating just looking at his food documentation from local mom and pop institutions and meals he’s created from thin air. We found ourselves pondering where these hidden gems are; where he sources his fresh veggies from; and how the recipes come together.
This time, we decided to visit him in Đà Lạt and follow everything he does within 48 hours. Lucky for us, he graciously welcomed us—many conversations were had over food, with friends in the kitchen, and on nature hikes. We talked about adaptability, sustainability, ‘crockery’ and more. We are excited to share the fruits of these conversations in the near future. For now, enjoy our visual journal from the time spent with Bao.
A visit to one of our shared favorite places, Cù Rú.
Bao La, Chuong Pham, Karen La, Kim To Lan Nguyen, Tung, Anthony Hoang, Levi Oi
Chuong Pham + Karen La
Đà Lạt, Vietnam
About Bao La
Australian-Vietnamese chef Bao La grew up in his parents’ humble Vietnamese restaurant, Kim Thanh, in Brisbane. Here, family recipes and traditional Vietnamese cooking methods formed his culinary foundation.
As an adult, he initially pursued a ‘safe’ career in Finance, but soon realized his true calling was in the kitchen. Through a series of Twitter exchanges, Bao landed a position with the Merivale Group, working with celebrated Australian chefs Dan Hong and Jowett Yu. After working at their acclaimed Sydney-based restaurants, Mr. Wong and MsG’s, La followed Yu to Hong Kong to open Ho Lee Fook with Black Sheep Restaurants.
After 2 years as sous chef, at the ‘funky Chinese kitchen’, chef Bao opened Le Garçon Saigon with the group. The wood fired Saigonese grill house was the first of its kind in the city and introduced Hong Kong to the rich diversity of Vietnamese cuisine beyond phở. Following the restaurant’s success, he opened Le Petit Saigon, a widely popular banh mi take away. La’s time in Hong Kong was categorized by a passion for expanding the perceptions of Vietnamese cuisine. But he was also becoming a champion for sustainability in the restaurants and beyond.
Through the years, Bao became more in tune with the negative impacts the restaurant industry had towards the environment. Bao fought for changes in the restaurant scene in Hong Kong by initiating recycling programs, reducing organic kitchen waste, eliminating the need to single use plastic within kitchen operations, moving away from commercially farmed produce and supporting local farmers.
In early 2020 with covid19 striking the world, Chef Bao relocated to his parents’ hometown of Đà Lạt, Vietnam. With an aim to learn more about the future of sustainable farming in Vietnam and to further his culinary knowledge.
Links: @bao_la and @lafamilyfarm