Chef Chang Sheng (Peter) Ye’s passion for food has taken him on a culinary and hospitality adventure to Vietnam. Thirty-seven-year-old Ye – who grew up in Gqeberha – became interested in food when watching television shows such as Hell’s Kitchen and chose to train in hospitality before making the life-changing decision to study the culinary arts part-time instead.
“I already had a Diploma in Hospitality Management and was an intern at Radisson Blu when my passion for cooking really came to the fore,” says Ye. “I realised it was what I wanted to do with my life and that it would give me greater opportunities so I asked the Radisson if they would sponsor me to study part time at Capsicum Culinary Studio. Thankfully they agreed and I graduated in 2011 with a Diploma in Food Preparation and Cooking from the school’s Nelson Bay campus.
“It was the best decision I could have made. Capsicum solidified my culinary knowledge and gave me the theoretical knowledge I was missing,” he says.
After graduating, Ye moved to Johannesburg and worked at establishments such as Emperors Palace, the InterContinental OR Tambo and Hilton Sandton hotel. He eagerly put his skills to the test and entered competitions such as the Unilever Chef of the Year, placing in the Top 5 in Africa, Middle East and the Indian Ocean. Then came the opportunity to work abroad and in 2016 Ye became the Executive Chef for the five-star Mia Resort Nha Trang in Vietnam and continued to climb the culinary and hospitality ladder.
This year, as resort manager, he opened a new property – The Anam Mui Ne, a luxury resort that ticks all the boxes for international travellers. It is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the only hotel in Vietnam to be included in this high-end, boutique hotel group. The Hotel Journal describes The Anam as “a tranquil home-away-from-home with some of the best service we’ve ever encountered.”
Ye says his food idols are Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay and many other Top Chef contestants and his dream is to one day open his own small, but trendy restaurant, offering a fusion of East meets West dishes.
His advice to those wanting to work in the hospitality and culinary industries?
“You reap what your sow. Whatever effort you put in, is what you will get out. Be prepared for long hours, forgetting to eat lunch or even going to the bathroom. Public holidays and weekends are non-existent. You are only as strong as your team. Put in extra time before or after your actual shift to be ahead of you colleagues and help in different sections. All this will benefit you at the end.”
With a few minutes of our interview remaining before Ye had to dash back to the kitchen, we threw a few fun, quick fire questions his way:
Name five things always in your fridge or pantry:
Sparkling water, wine, eggs, mushrooms and kimchi.
What would be your last meal?
Lobster ravioli with lots of shaved white truffle.
Is there anything you do not eat?
I’m allergic to kiwi fruit.
If you had to cook dinner for five famous people, who would they be and what would you make them?
Ariana Grande, Elon Musk, Gordon Ramsay, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and South Korean singer-songwriter Lee Ji-eun. I would make a spit roast because it is easy to prepare and I would have more time to converse with them; it also creates a more relaxing atmosphere.
Favourite celebrity cook?
What are three latest food trends?
Local seasonal, organic and sustainable.
What chefs do you admire most and why?
I admire chefs that start as stewarding/pot washers because they know where they come from and where they want to go. They are usually persistent and ambitious in what they want.
How do you rate the South African hospitality industry?
The South African hospitality has a lot of opportunities; we have a diverse culture that shows the uniqueness of our heritage and South African friendliness.