Everyone’s gotta eat – even the rich and famous.
One of the tricks of the trade in the catering business is learning how to cook for people with expensive tastes, and when it comes to celebrities, you really have to do your homework. People with that much attention from the public tend to be very picky about what they consume.
I’ve been fortunate in my career to cater for a number of public figures, and I’ve found that the only way to go is to put a personal touch on everything – which can be pretty hard work. To cook for a celebrity, you need to do three things: Firstly, it’s very important to find out if that celebrity has any food allergies, and secondly, you need to pick their favorite dishes. You’ve also got to make it healthy – most celebrities like to take nutritious meals to maintain a certain weight suitable for their performances.
I certainly hadn’t expected to be cooking for all that many American celebrities in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, and so when I received word that Demi Lovato would be dining at my restaurant this month, I was taken by surprise. Demi is a big name these days, popular for her work with the Disney Channel, as a famous American singer, and as a judge with Simon Cowell on the US talent show X-Factor.
It’s intimidating working for any high-profile figure, but in this case I had to be confident in putting together a five-star meal. I was under great pressure to make an impression, not only from her management, but also my daughter Angela, who’s as much of a Demi fan as I am! I needed to make sure it was a perfectly-balanced meal if I was going to have any chance of getting an autograph for my girl.
A little Google research is enough for starters, as most famous people have volumes of information about their lives online. I discovered that she likes cheese, seafood, and chocolate chip cookies, so I knew I had to start from there as I planned the menu for her and her entourage of 30 staff.
For Demi, I started it off with a seafood trio: poached jumbo prawns with sweet remoulade and Japanese tobiko; salmon roulade with honey soy glaze; and my favorite watermelon martini with scallop, which I wrote about in my previous column. Following on, we served seared foie gras with passionfruit sauce and balsamic glaze. I feel that the citrus taste of passionfruit balances well with the richness of foie gras, and I added dragonfruit as a palate cleanser – not to mention the cheese croutons, as Demi does love cheese.
For the main seafood course, we served langoustine with soursop sauce and strawberries, along with pineapple mint salsa and Vietnamese brown rice. The soursop is a fruit that is full of nutrients, and also contains natural compounds with known medicinal properties, making it wonderfully beneficial for your health.
At the carving station, we had USDA prime rib, seasonal vegetables, french fries, and cream of corn, au jus. We served Acacia’s signature prime rib, slow-roasted in the oven at low temperatures for six hours for the perfect flavor and texture. For dessert, we made organic chocolate chip cookies with M&Ms, vanilla waffles with chocolate ice cream and fresh strawberries.
Converting a concept into an extensive menu is always a risk, but fortunately Demi was very happy and impressed with the food, which was an enormous relief. We chatted for a bit and she agreed to take a picture and sign her autograph for both my kids – which sure saved my neck at home!
Vietnamese chef Jack Lee has served a host of Hollywood A-listers from Angelina Jolie to Barbra Streisand, and recently returned to chef for Acacia Veranda Dining (149-151 Nguyen Du, D1). His biography You Don’t Know Jack by Oi writer NPD Khanh will be released later this year.