Emigrants hungering for a taste of home applied many of the food habits synonymous with the gastronomically-rich nation to local produce, giving birth to the bánh mì, patê sô and bánh xèo that foodies know and love today.
Rodolphe Onno hopes to inspire similar innovations in Malaysia, with the Ramadan season being the first order of assignment.
“I’m excited to learn more about the food culture here and why certain dishes are to be eaten during the fasting period,” he said.
“This can help me create new recipes for Hari Raya and other celebrations. For example, it will be interesting to see how we can put a French twist to the famous kuihs sold both by the roadside and at the buffet restaurants of five star hotels.”
Rodolphe is the latest addition to the teaching faculty at Sunway Le Cordon Bleu, the Malaysian branch of the famed culinary art and hospitality institute.
Rodolphe believes the parallels between Thai and Malaysian cuisine would allow him to adjust well to his upcoming role.
“The outcome may taste differently but the herbs and cooking styles remain the same,” he said.
“Nevertheless, this will not affect the way we teach the techniques, which have been honed and perfected at Le Cordon Bleu schools worldwide.”
He added that the only changes are to the recipes and food handling methods in view of the hot and humid climate of Malaysia.
Seafood fans among his students would be happy to hear Rodolphe has a huge appetite for the specialties of his hometown of Brittany.
With the English Channel, Bay of Biscay and Iroise Sea forming its coastlines, the province is blessed with an abundant supply of fresh fish. Millions of visitors throng Brittany annually to sample roasted turbot in hazelnut butter, sea bass fillets and cotriade.
It was in the small village of Guern that Rodolphe embarked on his professional career. After cutting his teeth at Auberge de Kerlenn, he became Chef de Partie at the three-Michelin starred L'Espérance and two-Michelin starred Jacques Le Divellec.
The Ferrandi School graduate then rose through the ranks to eventually head the Val Joly kitchen as restaurant manager and executive chef.
Rodolphe aims to draw upon his 25 years of industry experience to help Sunway Le Cordon Bleu surpass its counterparts in the region.
"I wish to maintain our reputation for excellence, as befits the Paris school, and keep us the focal point of Southeast Asian culinary education," he said.
“Malaysian cuisine is unique and exotic, particularly Peranakan food. I believe the mishmash of Malay, Chinese and European influences can take the world by storm.”