Vietnam is famous for its delicious food.
But at a cooking school in Hanoi, the focus is on more than filling stomachs.
For the teenagers who attend KOTO, an internationally recognised hospitality boarding school in the Vietnamese capital, the kitchen offers a path out of poverty – one dish at a time.
“My parents both passed away at a very young age,” says Duong, who grew up in Vietnam’s rural heartland. “I can’t afford to study, or even to live, so I decided to apply to KOTO.”
The school teaches disadvantaged young people cooking and helps them find jobs in Vietnam’s best hotels and restaurants.
“If I didn’t have the chance to study cooking at this school, the opportunities for me to find a job in this country are very limited. I’d have to go overseas to get a job,” says Duong.
More than 700 students have passed through KOTO since its Australian-Vietnamese founder, Jimmy Pham, opened the doors 20 years ago.
When he first set up the school, the students came from Hanoi’s streets. Today, they are from Vietnam’s minority ethnic groups, orphans, gangs and victims of abuse and broken families.
But he insists the organisation is not a charity.
“It’s a hand up, not hand out,” says Pham. “People have to be empowered.”
101 East visits the cooking school serving up hope to Vietnam’s disadvantaged and downtrodden.
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