Top chefs are a great source of cooking inspiration. They know how to make simple ingredients into incredible dinners, and luckily, many are willing to share their secrets! One of our current favorite top chefs is Chef Viet Pham, a finalist on the show Food Network Star. He came from humble beginnings, but his knack for turning simple, accessible ingredients like Tilapia into delectable dishes quickly garnered him international attention.
From East to West
Pham was born in a Malaysian refugee camp, but moved to California at a young age. There, he learned to cook for the family as his parents worked long hours. Pham’s talent in the kitchen was immediately obvious, sending him on a path that resulted in him graduating from the California Culinary Institute and eventually opening his own restaurant in Salt Lake City.
Pham was named one of Food and Wine‘s Best New Chefs in 2011, was the semi-finalist for the James Beard Award and was a finalist on the TV show Food Network Star on season 9. Pham uses his international background to inspire his culinary creations, and we’ve got the inside scoop on how he cooks with one of his favorite ingredients: Tilapia!
Grilled Skewered Tilapia
While most people have heard of lamb or vegetable kebabs, Pham takes kebabs to the next level by skewering tender pieces of Tilapia fillets and grilling them on an open fire. This gives the fish a slight smoky flavor while making the Tilapia a little bit crunchy on the outside, but soft and moist on the inside. This dish is so versatile – you could make it at home on the barbecue, or you could pack some Tilapia fillets in your cooler on your next camping trip and grill them over a campfire, just like Pham does.
Tilapia Pizzas on a Tortilla Crust
Who but Pham would think to combine Mexican, Italian and Asian cuisine to form a healthy, protein-rich pizza? He starts with a soft tortilla, adds a light, creamy sauce, throws on some corn kernels and tops it off with flaky Tilapia chunks tossed in herbs and spices. While most pizzas are high in carbs, fat and calories, Pham keeps it light by using a lean source of protein instead of fatty pepperoni and a thin, light tortilla instead of a carb-heavy bread crust.
Whole Tilapia Fillets
To complement the mild flavor of Tilapia, Pham enjoys using simple, fresh ingredients when he cooks with fish. In this dish, Pham cooked whole Tilapia fillets in a creamy mixture along with fresh garlic and herbs from his garden. The result is an easy, light dish that also looks elegant when you serve it.
Viet Pham enjoys cooking with Tilapia because it’s a healthy, versatile fish that everyone from home cooks to top chefs can prepare. If you’ve been on the fence about cooking with Tilapia, let Pham’s innovative recipes inspire you to whip up something delicious in the kitchen with his go-to fish.
Looking for more inspiration from top chefs? Read about five celebrity chefs who cook with Tilapia—and what they make.
Photo credits: Regal Springs