8 November 2010Jimmy Pham
BBC News

Since opening the doors to his famous Koto – Know One Teach One – restaurant in Hanoi in 2000, he has helped around 400 homeless children to become industrious cooks.

At his non-profit hospitality training centre he has passed on both cooking and life skills.

“I came to Vietnam never wanting to start a project as big as Koto, I just wanted to make a difference,” he recalls.

“I look back now and realise that it has given me this incredible joy.”
Hand to mouth

Born in Ho Chi Minh City to a single mum with six children during the Vietnam war, Mr Pham lived in Australia from the age of eight before he returned to his homeland in the early 1990s.

It was there his Koto project was born after he stumbled across a group of children selling coconuts on the streets in 1996.

“I found these street kids carrying coconuts and working 16 hours a day,” he explained to the BBC World Service’s Outlook programme. “They were living from hand to mouth.

“So I took them and 60 other kids to dinner for the next two weeks.”

But it was another three years before the idea for his restaurant first came to fruition.

“At the time I thought I knew better,” he admitted. “I gave them fish everyday for that period but then they pulled me aside.”

“They said: ‘Look we trust you now but you can’t keep on looking after us this way. We’re going to need a job. We need you to show us how to fish for ourselves’.”

From there, his Koto project was launched. Children not only learned how to cook but were taught lessons in life too.

“The first thing http://asnu.com.au/viagra-online/ you receive is housing and medical checks along with vaccinations,” Mr Pham explained.

“You learn about team building and life skills programmes, vocational training and English, which gives you the confidence to meet people.”
Presidential visit

Interest in his restaurant gathered pace and within months former US President Bill Clinton dropped by for a bite to eat with an entourage of 80 reporters.

So suspicious were the Vietnamese government following Mr Clinton’s stop-off that they feared Mr Pham was a member of the CIA.

“I think I was under watch for about three or four years after that,” he laughs. “But I’m glad we went through that phase because I’ve got the green light now to go on and do the wonderful things that Koto is doing.”

To read more please visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11701796