Talking Travel With Luke Nguyen

2 January 2017
Read Time: 2.8 mins

TV personality, restaurateur, chef, author, serial traveller and all-round foodie. Luke Nguyen wears many (chefs) hats.

One of Australia’s leading culinary superstars, Vietnamese-born Luke first made his mark after opening his award-winning Red Lantern restaurant in Sydney’s Surry Hills while in his mid-20s. A restaurant empire that would go on to include pan-Asian hawker-style eatery, Fat Noodle, in both Sydney’s The Star and in Brisbane.

Inducted into the Sydney Morning Herald’s Food Hall of Fame, he’s also penned four bestselling cookbooks but is perhaps most recognised for his cooking and travel programs, “Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam” and “Luke Nguyen’s Greater Mekong”, both of which have been televised in more than 150 countries worldwide. The perennially hungry star chats to Flight Centre about the destinations that whet his appetite. 

Luke cooking at his Sydney establishment, Red Lantern. (Image: Belinda Rolland)

What's your favourite holiday?

This really is a tricky one as I have too many to choose from. If pressed, I’d have to say one of my visits to Japan. For a foodie like myself, it’s obviously heaven, but also Japan has a distinct culture. You really feel like you’re visiting a different country, from modern to traditional, from quirky to cutting-edge; there’s something here for everyone. 

What's your carry-on essential?

My noise-cancelling Bose earphones. For listening to music and for getting some rest. 

How do you beat jet lag?

I try to sleep when I’m on the plane and keep myself busy throughout the day once I arrive. I’ve found that if I can post past the lethargy and adjust to the local time zone, I feel a lot better. I usually head to bed at around 9-10pm. 

What's your favourite foodie city?

Funnily enough, I’ve recently been travelling to Hong Kong for my new project, Moi Moi by Luke Nguyen, and I was totally blown away by the food there. There’s so much variety and different cultural cuisines there. Pretty much any dish I had was memorable and delicious.

Street food is a highlight in Hong Kong. (Image: Getty)

Where was your favourite meal?

It’s Hong Kong again. On my last visit, a friend of mine who is a local took me to a food centre above a wet market. This place was pumping with locals drinking beers from a bowl and singing karaoke with family and friends sitting nearby on plastic stools. And - like the atmosphere - the food was also amazingly authentic Chinese. It was an incredible experience.

Adventure or luxury?

Definitely Adventure. I love exploring new cities and discovering their culture, their food and lifestyle. When I travel, I always try to stay in traditional homes or accommodation. For example, in Japan recently I went to a small town in Kyushu Island called Beppu and stayed in one of the traditional Japanese inns or ‘ryokan’ there. I think you should aways try to immerse yourself into the local culture. 

The Osens of Beppu are a luxury draw card for the small Japanese town. (Image: Getty)

What's the essential ingredient for a good trip?

Too easy - good food!

What's your top travel tip?

Bring your trainers and walk everywhere - thats the secret to discovering hidden gems down little alleyways. Also, sit down with the locals and learn about their country and culture. Eat what they eat and try to forget where you come from. 

What's your biggest packing mistake?

Probably not taking appropriate clothing. One standout was when I went to the Czech Republic and not realising it was snowing at the time. I’ve learnt to look at the weather forecasts before I go anywhere now. 

Where do you want to go next?

I have a long list, but my top three are San Sebastian, Greece and New York City.

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Paul Ewart

Originally from the UK, Paul has lived and worked in three different continents: from the heady metropolis of Dubai, to North America and - as of six years ago - Sydney, Australia, a place he now calls home. His travel career spans 13 years across various print and digital outlets. Until recently, he worked as a senior TV producer for Channel 7. Now, he's back doing what he does best: travelling.