If you know KOTO (Know One, Teach One), then you’ll know something about their respected food and beverage training programmes for underprivileged youth and their training restaurants in Hanoi and Saigon.
The brainchild of Australian-raised Jimmy Pham, a former tour leader born in Vietnam who returned to the country in 1996, KOTO was first set up as a sandwich shop in Hanoi to help street kids. Gradually transforming itself into a training school to give its trainees life skills in the food and beverage industry, graduates from KOTO’s programmes in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have become highly sought after within the industry.
Now KOTO is extending its reach with a new catering arm; KOTO Catering, incorporating three separate businesses. Fresca (frescavn.com) is an online food ordering service that delivers recipe kits to people’s homes, perfect for those who love to cook, but don’t have the time to do the market shopping that is required to produce tasty, home-cooked meals. Also part of the new arm are Pies by Rachel (piesbyrachel.wixsite.com/piesbyrachel) and The Patisserie (lotusimpact.wixsite.com/patisserie).
KOTO Catering’s general manager, Rachel Sinanan, explains.
Why this new venture? Why three elements to it?
We decided to start our own online retail division within KOTO Catering, as we already do food production for many retailers and cafés in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as catering for corporate and private events, and weddings.
What will they add to the social enterprise?
A different type of business that will help grow the enterprise, and give the youth being trained a new outlet to utilize their skills — still in hospitality, but in a different way. It gives them the opportunity to be part of something different and exciting they can put their ideas into.
How successful has Fresca been so far?
Fresca has only just started, and is still in its infancy, but it’s growing bigger every day. The interest we have had purely from advertising it just on Facebook has been huge. We love seeing our recipe kits flying out the door.
Where do you source the ingredients?
We have some fantastic suppliers who buy directly from farmers, and source the best quality products for us.
Who puts together the recipes? How have you chosen the dishes?
Our team at KOTO Catering have put the dishes together. This has included input from myself and our executive chef, Craig, who is from the UK. His team of chefs, most of whom are ex-trainees from KOTO, have also had a huge input into the recipes.
The recipes will be added to monthly as time goes on.
How easy is it to cook the dishes? Pho, for example, is notoriously time-consuming to cook. Do you include everything — herbs, spices and so on?
Absolutely everything is included in your recipe kit, and recipes have been made simple, so that anyone who wants to cook at home can cook the meals listed. The base for the pho is already prepared, making it quick and easy to cook.
The issue of buying ingredients from one outlet in Ho Chi Minh City has always prevented people from cooking at home. Is this part of the idea?
This was the main reason Fresca was started. It came from an idea of mine, as when I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, although I had lived in other countries in the past, I found it hard to find all the products I wanted to cook with. It takes time to get to know the city’s markets, and it can also be very time-consuming trying to get all the products you want — especially when you are working full time.
The meals work out at about VND160,000 a head. Do you think people would rather cook themselves at home than go out and spend the same money on a meal in a restaurant?
Eating out every day can cost a great deal more. It is part of the culture here in Vietnam to cook as a family at events like Tet, so why not make it fun and interesting and cook more often at home? It’s healthier and you know the food is safe.
Pies by Rachel. What fillings do you have?
We’ve started with one pie — the Great Aussie pie. It is a secret recipe with two different sizes; a 250g pie for VND150,000 or a 100g pie for VND70,000.
We plan to keep growing our selection of gourmet pies over the coming months. We are perfecting our recipes before we launch them and they will include British pies, French pies, American pies, New Zealand pies, Italian pies and of course the Vietnamese vegetarian hot pot.
The Patisserie. At the moment you’re only doing macaroons. What are your plans for this venture?
As we already provide many of our clients with our fresh bread, pastries and more, we intend to start selling them via the Patisserie by October. So, we will be a fully fledged bakery.
For further information on KOTO, click on koto.com.au