Bobby Chinn, the international charismatic chef, author and TV figure is mining travel cooking and writing with a cynical sense of humor and high rated charisma. We met with the firecracker at Diwan Bookstore where he was signing his new hit book Wild,Wild East and doing a playful cooking class for the attendees.
Born in Auckland New Zealand in a cross cultural home, Bobby Chinn is the son of an Egyptian aristocrat lady, and an American Chinese father who was born in Shanghai and moved to America after World War II to be raised in San Francisco. Chinn's educational background is a trans-global mosaic that included elementary school in San Francisco, a year at an all-boys' school in Egypt, as well as a stint at the Cairo American College in Maadi. He attended several boarding schools in England. In the U.S, he attended College of Marin, the University of Nevada in Las Vegas (UNLV), and St. Mary's in Moraga, California. Unhappy, uncertain which path to take, and feeling something deep inside of him was lacking, he returned to London, where he enrolled once again in college to earn his degree in Business in 1986. However, the years between graduation and moving to Hanoi were a continual career mission for Bobby Chinn.
From creative writing, computer science classes, working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, a 12 year old shoe boy in the financial district in San Francisco, flying a kite on Fisherman's Wharf for $20 a day, selling t–shirts on the Wharf, elevator operator in the Fairmont Hotel, numerous jobs as part time work in the restaurant industry; sure Chinn was acquainted with enormous skills and experience. He also thought about being a lawyer and wanted to do stand-up comedy, all before thinking of starting his own restaurants and hitting the world of saucer pans, media, travel and fame.
He started working in a restaurant called Camargue in Chi Minh City but it did not really work out. After four months he left, and then started his own place with his girlfriend Laura Flourens who ran the front of the house. They moved up to Hanoi and started a restaurant called Miro, which lasted three months until they were kicked out. Then she got a job in a hotel as F&B manager and they was later hired to open the restaurant in The Hanoi Towers which is over the old 'Hanoi Hilton' It was called the Red Onion, and that is where they started to get attention from the international press. A visit from Hillary Clinton even garnered him an invitation to the White House. So, while on his trip to Washington D.C., Bobby Chinn raised investment capital and was poised to take ownership of The Red Onion when the deal fell through. But as fate would have it, the building at One Ba Trieu Street became available soon thereafter.
Bobby Chinn came to Egypt last month and was welcomed by a flock of media interest. He attended several events around Cairo and also had a book signing session at Diwan Bookstore. His book Wild, Wild, East characterizes Vietnamese food as having fresh, clean flavors, and as being light, healthy, and diverse. Combining his lively text with Jason Lowe's striking color photos of Vietnam's markets, kitchens, people, and foods, Bobby Chin starts out with instructions for preparing Vietnamese sauces, garnishes, and dips. “In the book I tell stories about my experiences in travel and cooking. Some people think that they’re unbelievable and some think they are funny, but everything in the book is real and written in informative process of learning and creating” he tells us. He is also known for his creative dishes and baffling ingredients. He ate dogs and lizards and cooked a beetle before, “I cooked a beetle that smells like nail polish remover and tastes like pear, it’s very delicious though” wow!
Chinn is currently shooting his TV episodes of the new TV hit 3rd season of World Café Asia, in which he flows living on every edge and cooking different dishes. He revolves around the Middle East exploring, cooking, shooting and tasting. “I gained five kilos during my trip to Egypt, I tried everything!” he says “I went to Alexandria, Khan El Khalili and I cooked Pharonic food”. He thinks that going around the globe is the best inspiration for every international chef “you are not going to take anything with you when you die, except the experiences that you had”. The show will be aired in the Middle East next June.