Our story begins in 1968 on the outskirts of Sài Gòn, where Đức was born and raised along with 10 other siblings on his mother’s duck farm. As a child he remembers long days working together from sunup to sundown, helping his mother sell vegetables in the market, and family meals with everyone around the table. He watched his mother serve the many duck sellers who visited the farm, and learned hospitality meant caring for everyone under your roof.
from Vietnam to the world
As Đức grew up the situation in Southern Vietnam became more difficult and unstable, and his family urged him to escape the country in hope of a better life. At 16 years old, he made a dangerous and life-altering journey by boat from Vietnam to Malaysia.
During the voyage he was packed in ice for several hours in the hull of the boat, and barely survived. In Malaysia he was placed in a refugee camp, where he found himself in the kitchen, cooking meals for and feeding others like himself.
After a year in the refugee camp Đức was adopted by a family in Texas, where he relocated and began a new life for himself, studying, traveling, and working in kitchens along the way. He made his way to Central America, to Europe, and to Australia.
Everywhere he went, he found generosity and comfort in the homes of strangers. And he everywhere he went, he cooked. Đức cooked for his new friends, his adopted families, and for other travelers. He cooked on the beach in Mexico, for restaurants in America, and for five-star resorts in Austria.
Until one day, 20 years after leaving, Đức came back to cook in Vietnam.
from the world to Vietnam
In 2003, while traveling around Vietnam, Đức spent a few weeks in Hội An, a historic trading port founded along the Thu Bồn River. Surrounded by winding rivers, rice fields, and the open sea, Hội An’s serenity and beautiful produce inspired Đức to open his own restaurant, where he could express his eclectic style of cooking using local ingredients. He rented a space in the Ancient Town, added toilets and a roof, and built his kitchen. He designed bamboo tables, laid down tatami mats, and painted the walls in bright Latino colors.
On May 24, 2004 Đức opened the doors of Mango Rooms for the first time. From his tiny kitchen, he served five entrees, five main courses, and one dessert. Every dish was a original culinary creation, perfected abroad, but made with ingredients from nearby markets and family farms.
Mango Rooms’ vibrant blues and reds stood out against the yellow walls in the Ancient Town. And the food was like nothing else. International travelers began spreading the word about a colorful restaurant in Hội An, with an energetic chef, delicious cocktails, and unbelievable food.
Soon there were lines outside both doors of Mango Rooms. Đức managed the burners, changed the music, chatted with the guests, mixed cocktails, and made sure everyone left happy, full, and with a memorable story to tell.
Celebrities, politicians, actors, and other chefs visited the Mango restaurants when in Hoi An, and Đức cooked for all of them. Đức cooked for Gordon Ramsey, Mick Jagger, Tyra Banks, Jimmy Buffett, Eric Ripert and many others. Đức decided it was time to open another restaurant. Mango Mango was launched in 2008 on a quiet corner by the river with a prime view of Hội An's old Japanese Bridge.
at home in Hoi An
One day, a lovely Vietnamese woman came into Mango Rooms for dinner. Her name was Ly, and she returned for dinner the next day as well. A few months later, Đức convinced Ly to move from the United States to Hoi An, and the two got married and started a family. In time, Hội An’s popularity as a tourism destination grew. Each evening the Mango restaurants were buzzing with diners who came to meet the chef and taste his modern Vietnamese dishes.
As he settled in Hội An, Đức began exploring the local tastes and ingredients more in his menus, and discovered ways to put his own twist on Vietnamese classics. Đức and Ly opened a third restaurant in Hoi An when they found themselves missing the dishes their parents cooked for them as children.
The menu at Mai Fish honored Đức’s hardworking mother, and presented food from Hội An and Southern Vietnam. The menu starred crispy spring rolls from Ly’s mother’s recipe, seafood hotpot from Đức’s mother, and savory duck curry just like Duc ate on the family farm when he was a child.
a fresh start
When the three restaurants were forced to close in 2020, Đức took the opportunity to educate himself and his staff in the world of fermentation. He spent the pandemic experimenting in his home kitchen, and together with Ly sourced even cleaner, closer, and fresher ingredients to nourish his guests.
In 2022, after being shuttered for three years, the Mango restaurants reopened once more, this time with revived menus and a renewed commitment to showing travelers the best of Vietnamese hospitality.
Today, Chef Đức and his dedicated team go to work early each morning by the river in Hội An. They prep ingredients just in from the farms and fishermen. They set the tables, light lanterns, and wait to welcome guests. Visitors from all over the world come to Chef Đức’s restaurants. For the time they are there, they are fed soulful food, made to feel comfortable, and treated as guests of his family, in the true Vietnamese way.
“The food we give you is the Vietnamese way of cooking, using amazing ingredients to make creative, wholesome food. We want to give you the experience of the best of Vietnamese hospitality.”
Trần Thanh Đức