Prior to opening Chops, Richie was the chef at Moose & Roo, but he left after falling out with his business partner.
“That was a real down point, after leaving there, but in hindsight it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me,” says Richie.
Seeing the Potential
“I can’t really say that burgers were ever a massive passion of mine to be honest,” he says. “I shouldn’t say that, but it’s true. Of course, now I love them.”
Richie realised the demand for burgers in Hanoi, and that no one had set up a dedicated burger joint.
“People like burgers and beer, so I decided to open a restaurant serving those two things,” he says. “The craft beer scene hadn’t taken off in Hanoi yet, but it was starting to boom in Saigon.”
“I called around all the breweries in Saigon to see who’d send me some beer up, and only Pasteur Street agreed. We were the first to serve it in Hanoi.”
The concept caught on immediately, and within a year of opening the first restaurant on Quang An Street, another was opened in the Old Quarter, followed by another a year later on Ngoc Khanh, close to the Lotte Tower.
Richie’s background in the kitchen is extensive.
“I always love getting into the kitchen,” he says. “But nowadays I’m usually taken up with paperwork and meetings.”
Before coming to Vietnam, Richie was working with celebrity TV chef Rick Stein in the UK, as well as Oliver Peyton in the National Gallery in London.
“I always picked the best restaurants I could to work in,” says Richie. “I’ve worked around Britain, Sweden, Australia, and more.”
“I first came to Vietnam while travelling, and like so many others I fell in love with the place, and decided to come back.”
Do You Have the Chops?
Now Richie has 150 staff over four restaurants, a central kitchen, and a back office.
“It’s funny, people used to think the name was to do with chops of meat,” he says. “It’s actually got a double meaning, the first is the sideburns of our mascot Mr. Chops, and the second comes from the saying — ‘Do you have the chops?’”
“If you look closely, you see he’s got a Hanoi symbol on his apron, and a star on his hat.”
Chops has come a long way in a short amount of time, and has made itself probably the most popular burger restaurant in Hanoi.
“I honestly can’t think of anywhere better in the world to be doing what I’m doing than in Vietnam,” says Richie. “It’s the perfect economic climate.”
Chops is located at three locations on Quang An, Hang Bac, and Ngoc Khanh in Hanoi.
PHOTO BY JULIE VOLA
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