I first met Jimmy Pham and Tracey Lister exactly 10 years ago when I was in my early days with the ABC.
One thing I could never forget about the interview with Jimmy was how emotional he was when spoke about the trainees. Jimmy was in tears when mentioned about the hardship and struggles that the at-risk and disadvantaged youths had been through before their days in KOTO (Know One Teach One). I was speechless and for a moment I forgot all the questions I supposed to ask him...
I totally understand why the trainees actually call him 'anh My' - brother My in Vietnamese. Jimmy is more of a big brother and KOTO is a second family for them. The thing Jimmy focuses on most in the training program is not the professional skills but actually the emotion support and life skills for the trainees. These young people are often street kids. They came to the city from the country, working as street vendors or as cheap labour in shops or building sites. They would suffer from hunger, abuse, exploitation and have lost hope in kindness and life. Jimmy believes that in order to give these kids the way to make their dream come true, they first need to be able to dream again.
I've been following Jimmy and supporting KOTO ever since. These days, you don't find tears in Jimmy's eyes when he speaks about how he first met his kids anymore. You'll see sparks instead. He is very proud of his little brothers and sisters in KOTO.
Watching the success of the graduates, you could see KOTO has come a long way. I'm particularly touched by two graduates that I have met in person - Huong Dang and Thao Nguyen. They are just talented and incredible people who are so determined and passionate in what they are doing. They not only be able to support themselves these days but also give back to KOTO and the young people like them once.
You surely will be touched by the beautiful stories of the graduates and supporters through below video, too.
That's about Jimmy and KOTO. I got to know Tracey Lister through KOTO but we are also connected by our passion for food. You can't help but admire a person who is from a different culture but actually understands your cuisine better than you.
When we first met, Tracey shared with me her recipe for the imperial spring rolls from Hue which honestly I didn't know how to make them myself. Tracey also gave me her very first cookbook - the green unofficial KOTO cookbook that still proudly stands on my bookshelves after a decade with all of her books that I bought later: KOTO cookbook, Vietnamese Street food and Made in Vietnam.
Words can't really describe how I'm feeling when I could have Tracey on my side for this event. Tracey is the one who came up with the idea of having Hanoi street food and Hanoi home cooking menu for the event. She is super generous in helping us with the recipes, let us have her artworks to dress up the warehouse, lend us the cooking tools, Vietnamese coffee filters and much more... She will also be making the egg coffee, yoghurt coffee and teaching kids to make snow skin mooncakes on the day. We are just so blessed to have her with us.
Sharing these memories and stories remind me of how fortunate I am to be able to create this event with Tracey and KOTO. I and Rice Kitchen team really hope that we could contribute a little in helping Jimmy Pham and KOTO to continue writing these beautiful stories for the at-risk and disadvantaged kids in Vietnam. Hope you join us as well.
Founder of Rice Kitchen
PS: And try our delicious Hanoi food as well...