My Earliest Culinary Inspiration

April 12, 2018

My beloved chef uncle, Giuse Phạm Van Tân, passed away this past Saturday. In life, he taught me a great deal about the value of eating well. Part of that monumental lesson was the idea of eating together—with friends, with family, and with complete strangers who required companionship. My love for food largely grew from him, particularly because of his amazing home-made meals. Growing up, I would always look forward to family trips to Vancouver, Canada because I loved his cooking so much. In fact, I had even briefly considered going to culinary school after undergraduate college because I admired his skills in the kitchen. Uncle Tân advised me from doing so only because he knew that such a profession was physically demanding and ultimately taxing. He strongly believed I was meant for greater things because I had just completed a college education, an accomplishment uncommon in my extended family. He once told me, “Cooking is what you do when you can’t do anything else.” I disagreed with that statement but realized his words came from humility, not from his lack of knowledge or abilities. I don’t know if he ever knew how much I admired him and the way he could induce happiness in people with his food. So Uncle Tân, I hope you know now how much I looked up to you when you were alive. And how much I still think of you every time I sit down to eat in the company of friends, family, and strangers. You are present at the table and will always be there.

Phạm Van Tân in his prime

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