Executive chef Dennis Barton from The Anam Resort in Cam Ranh Bay chats about his 20 years in Southeast Asia, and how he gets wild with ice-cream.

How did you end up at The Anam at Cam Ranh Bay?

I’ve been a chef for 32 years. I did my chef’s apprenticeship in Brisbane, Australia at a club for military servicemen. From there I moved to the Sheraton Hotel where I did a pastry chef’s apprenticeship, after which I worked in various five-star resorts and hotels in Australia. When I was working at Hope Island Golf Course on the Gold Coast, I won employee of the year and the prize was a month-long trip to Osaka and Kobe in Japan. I ended up staying there for almost a year and when I came back to Australia, I realised that I didn’t want to be there. I wound up in Thailand working for Holiday Inn, Movenpick, JW Marriott, and the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel. Eventually I made my way to the Intercontinental Hotel in Nha Trang and on from there.


Why have you come back to Cam Ranh Bay?

This resort has stunning landscaping and rooms. It’s beautiful. Because The Anam was six months away from its grand opening, I saw a lot of opportunity here. The Anam has a nice feeling about it, and because my forte is in bringing a resort up to standard during the soft-opening stage, I saw a chance to put my stamp on it.


What’s your most memorable moment in the F&B industry?

One of them was definitely the grand opening of The Anam. I’d been here for six months preparing for it, and to see it open was a fantastic feeling. Throughout my career, the most enjoyable moments have been when I see my staff succeeding. Seeing them get promoted from chef de partie to executive sous chef is a thrill.


How’s the current state of hospitality training in Vietnam?

I can only speak from my experience in Nha Trang, but it’s difficult to find qualified staff. I don’t come across many people here who want to make it a lifelong pursuit to become an executive chef.


What’s needed to ensure the future success of the F&B industry in Vietnam?

You’re only ever as good as your team, so you need to mentor your staff and train them to work well together and to the standards expected by the hotel. The industry booming, which means that when a new hotel opens up, they offer staff more money and a higher position, so they leave. Staff retention needs a strong focus.


What’s your favourite dessert to make?

I love making ice-cream and sorbet. You can just go wild making it. As an example, you can soak cornflakes in milk overnight, strain them in the morning, throw them in the freezer and then you have an ice-cream that tastes like breakfast. You’re limited only by your imagination.


What’s the most memorable dessert you’ve made?

The dessert I made at The Anam’s recent grand opening. It was made with bourbon vanilla cream, poached pears, honey ice-cream, glass shard biscuit, and caramelised white chocolate.


What’s the secret to making an outstanding dessert?

You have to have texture. I love a dessert that’s both hot and cold. There must be soft textures with crunchy textures; there must be balance between sweet and sour.


Does a dessert need a fancy name to be considered a great dessert?

It doesn’t matter what it is. If your mother made me an apple pie, but it was well balanced, not too sweet, with not too much cinnamon, then that’s heaven, that’s beautiful.


Where do you source your ingredients?

I’m a stickler for sourcing local whenever possible. You won’t see a menu written by me that has halibut or cod on it. In Cam Ranh we have beautiful sea bass, snapper, grouper, sailfish, tuna, lobsters, prawns, and oysters. We don’t need to import it from France. Our seasonal vegetables come from Dalat. I aim to keep the business local if it’s sustainable to do so.


For more info on The Anam Resort click on theanam.com

Photo by Mike Palumbo

Matt Cowan

Managing Editor of Word Vietnam. Destined to be a dairy farmer until he accepted a spur of the moment job offer in Japan in 1998. After making it big in Japan, he now finds himself wrangling stories in Vietnam instead of cows in Australia. Matt has been living in Saigon since 2010.

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