Another inspirational story of voluntrourism comes from an American chef in Vietnam. Chef Robert Danhi, a former instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and author of the cookbook Southeast Asian Flavors, leads culinary tours to Vietnam and other countries in Southeast Asia. After a few visits, Robert contemplated doing more for the country that has nourished his mind, body and soul, and find a way to give back to the people of the country.
He partnered with the Global Community Service Foundation (GCSF) to work with Tam’s Cafe in Dong Ha, Quang Tri Province. The café is an income-generation project that GCSF funded in 2009 in order to help hearing-impaired individuals develop their business skills and support themselves financially.
For one week, Robert helped develop a concept that would appeal to the visitors, mostly returning Vets to the area. He introduced ice blended coffee drinks. He said the locals were so confused with the concept and were not sure if folks would buy them. Robert recalls the beginning, “I explained how billions of dollars of sales in coffee chains were produced through the sales a of such beverages. We used the local jet black coffee and blend it with local items to create a cooling beverage. Smiles overtook their faces as they passed around the cup to sip it….immediately they got it.”
Then he introduced the village to pizza, which was a bit more challenging. Robert found a local quarry to cut a piece of stone to place in the bottom of a small oven (a really a larger toaster oven). It took some testing but he got it right. After refining the recipes, he trained the staff on how to prepare and serve the new menu, which seems to be a big hit with the locals.
The cafe also hosts an English language Club where Robert volunteers with locals to improve their conversational English.
Robert is still very connected to the people in Vietnam. He and his wife donated money to rebuild this home of a mother and daughter who lost their residence during a typhoon.
To learn more about Chef Robert Danhi or purchase his book, visit Southeast Asian Flavors.