Unveiling ST25 by KOTO: A fusion of culinary excellence and community impact

November 23, 2023 | 16:09
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On November 14, Sofitel Saigon Plaza and KOTO announced the soft-opening of its new flagship Vietnamese restaurant, ST25 by KOTO, an extraordinary venue dedicated to showcasing modern Vietnamese cuisine.
Unveiling ST25 by KOTO: A fusion of culinary excellence and community impact
Unveiling ST25 By KOTO: A fusion of culinary excellence and community impact

The new outlet, set to open its doors on December 6 this year, declared its kitchens open at an unveiling press conference held in the hotel on November 14. Located in the vibrant heart of Ho Chi Minh City on the second floor of Sofitel Saigon Plaza, ST25 by KOTO introduces a contemporary twist to Vietnamese cuisine, marking a pioneering leap in culinary innovation. Boasting a seating capacity of 140 guests, it aims to welcome 100 diners nightly.

The name ST25 by KOTO pays tribute to the renowned Vietnamese rice variety, ST25, which earned the prestigious title of World's Best Rice in 2019. Beyond mere sustenance, rice assumes a role of profound significance in the fast-emerging Southeast Asian nation, embodying the tenacity, ingenuity, and unwavering ardour of Vietnam.

This restaurant endeavours to be more than just a dining experience. In the words of KOTO’s founder, social enterprise pioneer, and luminary Jimmy Pham, it is, “A living testament to the power of knowledge-sharing, encapsulated in KOTO's mission to Know One, Teach One.”

Entirely staffed by KOTO graduates, who have been trained in the art of Vietnamese hospitality, ST25 by KOTO offers exquisite Vietnamese cuisine and contributes to the KOTO Foundation, empowering marginalised Vietnamese youth.

These skilled professionals have received training in Vietnamese hospitality from some of the country's top culinary experts. Through ST25 by KOTO, the organisation not only provides its graduates with a platform to showcase their skills on a global stage, it also remains dedicated to community development.

“We are delighted to partner with Sofitel Saigon Plaza to launch ST25 by KOTO,” said Pham.

"ST25 by KOTO represents the strength of collaboration and our vital commitment to community betterment. Up to 10 per cent of each bill will be allocated to the KOTO fund. Through ST25 by KOTO, we're providing fresh prospects for our graduates and presenting the pinnacle of Vietnamese culinary artistry on the global stage. Moreover, as a co-founder of VietHarvest, ST25 also joins forces with the VietHarvest mission, amplifying its impact in reducing food waste and supporting vulnerable communities."

Mario Mendis, general manager of Sofitel Saigon Plaza stated, “ST25 by KOTO is a testament to our belief that every meal can be a force for good and that every dish can tell a story of tradition and innovation. With the introduction of ST25 by KOTO, we aim to celebrate Vietnamese culinary excellence, reinforce our deep commitment to the local community, and express our strong dedication to corporate social responsibility.”

Pham added, "ST25 by KOTO rises above the conventional definition of a restaurant. Collaboratively curated by two culinary talents, Bao La and Heath Gordon, our menu promises an extraordinary dining experience. ST25's culinary offerings showcase a diverse range of contemporary Vietnamese dishes, all meticulously prepared with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients."

Chef Bao La said, "At ST25, we're on a mission to elevate Vietnamese cuisine to new heights. It's an honour to work alongside Chef Heath Gordon and contribute to this culinary masterpiece. Our shared passion for authentic, unforgettable flavours drives us to create dishes that not only satisfy the palate but also leave a lasting impression on every guest."

The KOTO Foundation is a pioneering social enterprise in Vietnam, founded in 2000 by Jimmy Pham. It focuses on providing comprehensive hospitality training and job opportunities for disadvantaged Vietnamese youth, aiming to break the cycle of poverty.

KOTO's holistic programmes cover various aspects of hospitality, including cooking, customer service, and social skills, as well as financial management and English communication. Graduates are highly sought after in the industry for their dedication and positive attitude. Many have successfully secured positions in prestigious hotels and restaurants in Vietnam and around the world, showcasing the profound impact of KOTO's transformative initiatives.

From humble start to world’s best rice From humble start to world’s best rice

The Vietnamese rice sector was shocked last month when companies from the US and Australia attempted to attain the trademark for ST25 rice. Ho Quang Cua, the engineer who created the variety, explained to VIR’s Hoang Oanh his side of the story and explained why the rice is so widely sought after beyond these shores.

ST25 and building up a protected trademark ST25 and building up a protected trademark

ST25 rice - also known as Soc Trang fragrant rice, yielded from the ST25 rice variety - is the creative result of the hard researching process of agricultural engineer Ho Quang Cua and his team for the past 12 years.

Proper brand protection strategy: urgent requirement for enterprises Proper brand protection strategy: urgent requirement for enterprises

A proper brand protection strategy is a compulsory requirement for Vietnamese companies to survive and develop their products in the context of domestic brand names being registered by overseas competitors. Nguyen Vu Quan, trademark and copyright manager at KENFOX IP & Law Office, writes about the needs for domestic firms to register their brand names internationally.

Vietnam striving to bring high-quality rice to the world Vietnam striving to bring high-quality rice to the world

With the embrace of now-globally recognised ST25 rice, Vietnam’s foray into foreign markets has received the necessary boost – but a lack of cooperation between exporters and farmers could limit domestic suppliers’ competitiveness.

By Nhat Ha

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