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.”
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.
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.
2012’s creation was a replica of the Pullman Đà Nẵng resort itself.
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.
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.
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”
and more often than not he was posting his famous cat’s bums.
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.
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.