In Memory of Chef Shane Brierly

Chef Shane Brierly serves up his smokin' LN2 cocktails

Shane Brierly
November 11, 1965–July 2,2014

 

What a shock to receive the news of Chef Shane Brierly’s passing. A brilliant executive chef, kitchen manager, staff trainer, master of LN2 ice cream, and (often naughty) wit, he has left us with many fine memories.

Born in New Zealand and trained in Australia, Shane contributed immeasurably to the food scene in five countries,and for the last four years, to the food and beverage scene in Việt Nam. He founded kitchens at three different luxury hotels in Đà Nẵng, Sài Gòn and Phú Quốc, trained the staff, and designed menus and fabulous dishes. In teaching his staff the necessary skills for running a world-class resort kitchen, he knew the value of respecting the “certain amount of “that’s how we do it here” that has to be approached ‘softly softly’, sans the big stick.”

LN2 passion fruit ice cream à la Shane
Well known for his experimentation with food and menus, he contributed many signature dishes to Pullman’s dining rooms and bars in Việt Nam, from Pho Pizza and Phoburgers to his “World’s Largest Cocktail”  and his unforgettable liquid nitrogen ice cream concoctions. Being in Việt Nam didn’t scare him away from using hard-to-find ingredients, and when he couldn’t find something locally, he often trained his staff to make it in house.

Each year at Christmas time, he and his pastry chefs laboured on elaborate gingerbread buildings. 2010 brought a metre-high six-tiered gingerbread pagoda.
Shane's 6 metre pagoda

He used 180 eggs, 30 kilos of flour,  10 of brown sugar, 7 of icing sugar, one of ground ginger, half a kilo each of allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg, the help of several pastry chefs and two weeks to build it. He and his team created a gingerbread replica of Đà Nẵng’s Rooster cathedral in 2011.
rooster cathedral

2012’s creation was a replica of the Pullman Đà Nẵng resort itself.
shane replica danang resort

Shane was a whizz at social media and at making friends; he welcomed so many visitors and expats to visit and to experience his nitrogen ice cream or a fine meal. He kept everyone entertained with his storytelling and the facial expressions and gestures to go with it.

Shane's Twitter photo

He went out of his way to do something special for his friends, both online and real-life, setting up romantic dinners or creating stunning personalized cakes.

Chef Shane's beautiful book cake creation for Steve and Quynh. Photo courtesy of Stephen McGrath

Shane never failed to come up with an irreverent or risqué joke, and he managed to make me laugh almost every time I opened Facebook or Twitter to find one of his photographs with a crazy caption. Sometimes he was “having coffee in Saigon with 3 shameless tarts

shane shameless tarts

and more often than not he was posting his famous cat’s bums.

“Good Morning cat’s bum from Long Beach, Phu Quoc. MWAH!”

Shane took beautiful photos and he was a tireless food and travel writer. He co-authored a 32-page guide to Đà Nẵng (the city’s first one), and wrote recipe manuals for cooking classes, blogs, articles, and more.

I first met Chef Shane on Twitter when he first arrived in Đà Nẵng after his stint in Thailand. Our common interest in food, travel and Việt Nam gave us much to chat about. In 2012, he was kind enough to take the time to give me an interview about his work, his vision, and the culinary scene in Việt Nam, and sent me photos to use on my blog.

A year later, when I finally met him in person, he said “It feels like you’re a close friend I’ve known for years—well, you ARE—it’s just taken us a long time to meet.”And indeed, he treated me and my sister-in-law like close friends, treating us to coffee and a tour of the grounds of the Pullman Resort in Đà Nẵng. He invited us into the kitchens and talked about his rewarding work and “awesome staff.” He showed us the butterfly garden and his personal herb patch, and topped it all off with a lesson in making liquid nitrogen (LN2) ice cream.

private LN2 ice cream lesson 2

He invited me and my husband to go out on the town in Đà Nẵng with him and the love of his life, Rachel, saying he wanted to bring us to some of his “favourite local joints”. Unfortunately, we had to postpone it, and the next time I was in Đà Nẵng, he’d already moved on to Sài Gòn.

After that, he relocated to Phú Quốc, and we looked forward to visiting him there later this year. Beautiful, quiet Phú Quốc . . . we were shocked to hear that there, Shane was involved in an accident while riding his electric bike.  We later learned that the cause of the accident was a myocardial infarction. He passed away at 11 p.m. on July 2, 2014. He leaves behind a legacy of amazing recipes, stacks of memories, his dear family and a multitude of friends, and his beloved cats and ridgeback dog.

We will miss you, Chef Shane Brierly. You left us far too soon.

***
In true Chef Shane style, Shane put up a struggle to stay in Phú Quốc. In the words of his mother, Carol Skinner:

“Last night Rachel Nguyen and her dad and Salinda staff took Shane from the hospital on Phu Quoc island to the airport to be transported to Saigon.
Once all the paperwork was completed it was discovered that Shane’s Coffin was too big to fit into the compartment required and this naturally held up the flight.
At this point Rachel had no alternate to return Shane to the hospital and make other arrangements.
This morning Shane is now traveling by boat to the main land then being transported by vehicle to Saigon the hope is that he will arrive by this afternoon Saturday 5th of July
We all know how much Shane loved his life in Vietnam Son Tra Beach in Danang being one and more recently Phu Quoc Island and his beloved Wooden House he and Rachel shared.
It would seem from these regions he’s very reluctant to depart even in death.”

Shane finally arrived in Saigon. A group of friends got together for an evening of memories and send-off drinks for him at Vesper Lounge. After his cremation, Rachel brought him back to Đà Nẵng, a place he always loved. Friends attended a memorial there, arranged by his close friend Simon Angove, to celebrate his life and share their memories. Shane was always a generous guy, and he has left us with so very many memories, some happy and some outright outrageous, to share.

Shane’s mother Carol has shared a family idea of something we can all do to honour Shane. In her words:
“Write a note or your thoughts for Shane, burn them (preferably, somewhere a kitchen) and scatter the ashes, (seasoned with herbs, garlic, lime, just joking ….) we will do it here as well and toast Shane and his colourful life.”

Thanks, Carol, for sharing this, and for  keeping Shane’s great sense of humour alive.

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About Chris Galvin

Chris Galvin is a Canadian writer, editor and photographer dividing her time between Canada and Viet Nam. Her essay Flood Season was a finalist for the 2012 Best of the Net prize, and Discovering Hến Rice in Central Việt Nam won third place (shared) and a Readers’ Choice Award in the 2015 I Must Be Off! Travel Essay Contest. Her work has appeared in various anthologies and literary journals, including Descant, Asian Cha, PRISM International, Room, and others. She has written in Vietnamese and English for Vietnam Tourism Review/Kham Pha Du Lich Vietnam Magazine, Travellive, and Du Lich Giai Tri. Chris is currently looking for a home for her recently completed manuscript, Breakfast Under the Bodhi Tree, a book about living, eating, and tour-guiding in Viet Nam.
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16 Responses to In Memory of Chef Shane Brierly

  1. Craig Anderson says:

    Thanks for that Chris, beautiful memories of our mate Shane, very nicely written, we might need to borrow from that next week.

    • rachel nguyen says:

      Beautiful words,Chris.i think Shane will be happy and appreciate what you wrote.he is such a naughty man,even when he has passed he still naughty,and he loves phu quoc and people there so much ,make himself stuck there few days and made difficult for us to move him to Saigon.but we are praying and hopefully he will be here tonight.thanks for beautiful words about him.

      • Chris says:

        Rachel, he never did like Saigon. I can imagine him fighting tooth and nail to stay in his beloved Phu Quoc. Our thoughts are with you. Wish I were closer to be able to help.

    • Chris says:

      Craig, you’re welcome to borrow whichever words you need.

  2. Chris curtis says:

    Great chef and even better person…….. Loved his blog and the short time i knew him when i was in danang. Rest in peace mate all the good ones go too soon

  3. A beautiful tribute, Chris. I wish I’d gotten to know him better. Rest in peace, Chef.

  4. Beautiful, Chris. I didn’t know him, but I wish I did after reading this. Very sorry for the loss of your friend. Take care.

  5. Toni says:

    Beautifully done and so accurate! Very sad about Shane, loved his humour and his cooking! He will be really missed. Sleep well Shane xxxxx

  6. Steve Wilson says:

    A wonderful tribute Chris.

  7. Camlinh says:

    Dear Rachel and Shane’s family,
    It is very sad to learn of Shane’s passing and our condolences to you all at this sad time.
    I had the pleasure and honour to meet Shane and Rachel whilst they stay with us at Peppercorn recently.
    I remember how energetic, warm and friendly Shane was. He was indeed a very special man.
    Rest in peace Shane.
    We will never forget you.
    Linh

    • Rachel Nguyen says:

      Thanks Linh .That was our last holiday and memories .we had good chilling time there.and shane really liked your resort .Everything is so suddenly .Till now i still not accept and believe its real..Still feeling he is still around and thinking of him everyday..He is in my heart forever.Sweetest man .

  8. Albin says:

    Dear Shane and Shane friends, it is realy hearbraking to hear this sad news today !

    We didn’t know each other enough to become friends but I can say that you left to me and to all our guests a great memory of that dinner organized with you last November.

    It was a pleasure working with you to select the perfect food pairing to our Cognac for that special event and the execution of that meal was really outsanding : it was the work of a 5* Chef indeed !
    Our customers were astonished by the tenderness of the beef (meltique beef) cook to perfection and of course the live show at the end with our VSOP cognac + nitrogen and your skills (it isn’t a coincidence that I still have a picture of you making that ice cream on my PC wall !)
    I also really appreciated when you still kept in touch with me after your recent moved to Phu Quoc resort, I was already excited to the idea of trying some more nitrogen / Cognac ice cream with you…

    Well, what to say now except that we all know the roads of Vietnam are unfortunately still very dangerous but what can we do against that ? It is unfair indeed that a good person like you, a true Vietnam lover who has dedicated himself to share his love and passion for great cuisine in this country has to go first… You had still so much to teach and share with us I believe.

    From the deep of my heart, I would like to say “Merci Chef” and goodbye for now.

    Albin (working in Saigon for Camus Cognac which was lucky to meet Shane and worked together on a great dinner at Pullman last year!)

  9. hanoi ink says:

    Hey Chris, thanks for posting this. I never met Chef Shane but read his food writings with interest – just last week I was eating pin shell clams in Da Nang thanks to an article of his a few years back. Really sad news.

  10. Michael ward says:

    Hi Chris
    Thanks for your moving tribute to Shane
    Shane was my closest friend in our last years of school in New Zealand and for several years afterward until our respective move overseas resulted in us losing touch
    I recognised a number of Shane’s traits in the comments you made and what I most fondly remember of Shane is that he had myself and our friends perpetually in stitches of laughter.
    He has been taken from us too soon – I do not know his family overseas but would welcome the chance to contact them and let them know how many people from his past in New Zealand will miss him and consider his a life worth celebrating.
    Kind Regards
    Michael Ward

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