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The Bureau Podcast

The Bureau Podcast

By The Bureau Asia
Vietnam’s food and beverage scene is evolving in so many delicious ways, from street food inspired tapas to coconut worm shots to organic produce from the highlands. Each fortnight, join The Bureau Chief Matt Cowan and guests as they share industry insights, discover bars and restaurants, and chat to people in the know. If you’re a foodie, traveller or just wanting to discover the best places to eat and drink in Vietnam, The Bureau Podcast is for you!
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Episode 3 – Saigon's changing skyline, cocktails named after its streets, all on location at The Studio Saigon

The Bureau Podcast

Pirates, Tractor Pulls, Be Be & Whale Cemeteries – The Vũng Tàu Special
Vũng Tàu, a beachside town approximately 100km southeast of Hồ Chí Minh City (Vietnam's biggest city), is often left off the itineraries of international travellers and dismissed by expats as a seedy getaway for men wanting to escape the city to get up to no good behind closed doors.  But as Matt and Mel discuss, Vũng Tàu deserves more respect. It's long been loved by the Vietnamese for beach holidays and has arguably one of Vietnam's tastiest foodie scenes, after all, it's regarded as the home of bánh khọt, everybody's favourite little deep-fried snack. It also has a rich history. Vũng Tàu's name has changed multiple times, it once harboured Malay pirates tracking the busy trade routes that ran up and down Vietnam's east coast, the Portuguese popped by for a bit, along with the French, and there's been a sizeable Russian community living here for decades.  And to top it off, the fisherfolk worship whales.  Playlist 00:00 - 01: 55 Intro 01:55 - 08: 03 The basics about Vũng Tàu (getting there, weather, lifestyle & sights) 08:07 - 12:37  A brief history 12:41 - 22:36  Food 22:41 - 26: 58 Cool discoveries (an ocean view cafe, a pool by the beach & a mega Club Sandwich) 27: 02 - 38:48 Whale worshipping & the small fishing village of Phước Hải 38: 53 - End (41:31) For more about the places, addresses & locations Matt visited in this episode, be sure to check out: Website: Facebook: Facebook Group: Instagram: YouTube: Follow Matt: Facebook: Instagram: YouTube: (coming soon!) Follow Mel:  Instagram: The Bureau Podcast theme & bumper by Lionel Valdellon at
February 15, 2021
Episode 11 - Saigon's F&B situation, influencer marketing in COVID times, a craft beer blind tasting, Get Excited & Insta-worthless
In this long-awaited return of The Bureau Podcast after a lengthy hiatus, The Chief (Matt Cowan) gets Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam editor-at-large Chris Thompson on the blower who tells us whether or not his predictions came true for Vietnam hospitality trends during this weird and unpredictable era of COVID-19. Chris also reveals what F&B trends are emerging and are likely to become a “thing” moving into 2021, and he tells us about one place Saigoners really must visit, especially while international tourists for the moment are absent. After that, we deep-dive into the prickly and controversial world of influencer marketing, celebrities, content creators and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram with The Bureau’s own content manager Melanie Casul who also happens to lecture on digital marketing at RMIT Vietnam in Saigon. She enlightens us on what digital marketing actually is, points out the amount of tiers (no, not tears) of influencers there are and what they constitute, including at the same time letting Matt down gently once he comes to the realisation that he’s not a micro-influencer at all and perhaps just scrapes in as a nano-influencer - either way, he's at the bottom of the heap! Beers are never too far from the microphones during the recording of any Bureau Podcast and this time is no different. Matt and Mel blind taste a couple of locally-made craft frothies, Pasteur Street Brewing Co's Pomelo IPA and a newcomer to the scene, Mix Tape’s Peaches & Cream IPA. Somehow after that, they manage to get through Get Excited where they tell each other which venue in Saigon has got them excited, before finishing off with the cheeky new fun segment Insta-worthless, where Matt calls out a couple of Instagram accounts for their whacked updates that you would never be able to come up with in a million years! Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, stop, pop the top off a cold one, sit down and enjoy the listen.
September 6, 2020
Bureau Bites Ep 12 – Staying fit & healthy in isolation
With the biggest public health crisis we’ve confronted this century playing out, it's forced us indoors for the foreseeable future. Governments are demanding that we stay home and leave only for essential purposes like grocery shopping or medical checkups. Schools have been closed for most of the year in Vietnam, students aren’t likely to return until at least June and workers in non-essential industries have either been stood down or are required to work from home until further notice. As this existential threat to our health and livelihoods is mostly seen as coming from beyond the four walls of our homes, what about the impact it’s having within them? To find out, I spoke to health and fitness professional Phil Kelly, the founder and master trainer of Body Expert Systems based in Ho Chi Minh City. We ask Phil the following questions: 1. What impact has COVID-19 had on the health and fitness industry in Vietnam? 2. How quickly do you believe the industry will bounce back and why? 3. How have you adapted your program/s to the restrictions that have been put in place? 4. What advice and activities do you have to keep us moving? 5. Are there any online challenges that we should just simply avoid?
April 16, 2020
Bureau Bites Ep 11 – World Renowned Venetian Tattoo Artist Crez
When you think of Italy, you think of great food and wine and great cities like Milan and Venice. In 2018, over 60 million tourists visited Italy, making it the 5th most visited country in the world behind France, Spain, the US and China. Meanwhile, Venice is Italy’s most popular city for tourists with close to 28 million foreign visitors checking out its romantic canals and architecture in 2017. However, sadly, Italy has become the epicentre of the COVID-19 spread, with the highest number of recorded deaths from the virus (at the time of recording this episode). To find out more about life on the ground in Venice, we speak to world-renowned Venetian tattoo artist, Crez, who operates from his Adrenalink studio in Marghera, not far from his city’s tourist mecca. Crez is one of just 100 tattoo artists globally who earned the right to be included in Anna Felicity Friedman’s World Atlas of Tattoo published in 2015 – an honour that recognises inductees as the most significant practitioners in the history of tattooing. He also has a strong connection to Vietnam. We ask Crez the following questions: 1. Where in Venice are you in relation to the tourist areas that many people listening would know about? 2. How has your neighbourhood been affected? 3. How will this change Italy? 4. Usually you would be spending your days tattooing people, how are you spending your days at the moment? 5. You have a strong affinity with Asia, including with Vietnam, what message do you have for listeners in this part of the world?
April 13, 2020
Episode 10 – The Bureau Bites Top 10 Countdown Part 1
In this episode of The Bureau Podcast, we're celebrating the first 10 Bureau Bites episodes, our new shortened "pod-bite" series in which we interview a whole bunch of interesting people with a connection to Vietnam. In this first part of two, we revisit the first five stories which delve into the impact COVID-19 is having on travel and hospitality in Vietnam. And for a little added extra fun, we mix it up with a playlist of songs befitting of the stories and the pandemic experience we're going through right now. So crack the top off your favourite beer or mix up your favourite tipple and kickback for 30 minutes as Matt and Mel recap with a mix of fact, fiction and fun. 
April 4, 2020
Bureau Bites Ep.10 – Surviving Vietnam
Vietnam can be quite a perilous place to live. Traffic accidents remain the biggest single cause of fatalities in the country. While the number of fatalities has been steadily falling each year from around 14,000 deaths in 2010 to around 7,600 in 2019, there were still 48 reported traffic accidents that claimed 21 lives per day last year on our roads. Meanwhile, drownings remain the leading cause of death for children in Vietnam. A conservative estimate suggests that on average, 16 people drown every day in Vietnam, a rate that is believed to be ten times that of developed countries. And then there are all the other dangers at workplaces and around the home that pose a risk to everyday life. Fortunately, however, there are a few organisations in Vietnam that are working with government departments to turn things around. One of those is Survival Skills Vietnam, a social enterprise that strives to raise awareness of hazards in our environment and who conducts first aid and evacuation training for businesses and the general public. To find out more about Survival Skills Vietnam, we spoke to co-founder Trang Nguyen, who’s based in Ho Chi Minh City. We ask Trang the following questions: 1. Why is there a need for social enterprises like Survival Skills Vietnam? 2. What have been some of the challenges you and your co-founders have faced in setting up your organisation? 3. What are some of the myths associated with survival skills and first aid in Vietnam? 4. What are some everyday things that people typically overlook around home that can be dangerous? 5. What are the essentials for an at-home survival kit?
March 31, 2020
Bureau Bites Ep.9 – Singapore Social's Eco Warrior Paul Foster
Singapore has been widely praised internationally for its efforts in containing COVID-19 and limiting fatalities to two people so far. But concern is afoot as the number of COVID-19 cases in the small island state has doubled over a 48-hour timespan, with an estimated 200,000 citizens yet to return home from overseas. Meanwhile, the livelihoods of just about everyone in every industry have been hard hit, no less so for people working in the entertainment and creative industries in Singapore. In order to find out more about how Singaporeans are coping with COVID-19 and more, we speak to Singaporean actor, host, environmental activist and Netflix' Singapore Social star, Paul Foster. We ask Paul the following questions: 1. How are things in Singapore at the moment? 2. How have you been spending your time since the COVID-19 crisis started? 3. What is it about Singapore and Singaporeans' ability to simply get things done? 4. What environmental projects are you currently involved in? 5. Is there going to be a Season 2 of Singapore Social? 
March 28, 2020
Bureau Bites Ep.8 – Nightlife in Saigon, eco issues & an electric car
As of March 25, the Vietnamese Government reported that there has been a total of 141 COVID-19 cases since the outbreak, with 17 of those having fully recovered already, which leaves 124 cases, with 93 of those being Vietnamese and the rest foreign. It's a very impressive result so far, indeed, although those numbers have risen since this recording. According to the Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister, “the virus is somewhere near everyone, thus anyone may contract it and transmit it to others if we do not seriously abide by official instructions.” One of the best-known directives the world over is for people to social distance and stay home, easier said than done if you don't have anything fulfilling to do. One person in Saigon who’s been keeping himself occupied with a side project for quite a while now, is Doru Tudose. By night he’s a DJ, but by day, he’s building his own electric car. We ask Doru the following questions: 1. How’s the social distancing going? 2. Tell us more about your electric car. 3. What does the average Saigonese need to do to help the environment? 4. What impact has COVID-19 had on nightlife in Saigon and how will it affect it in the long term? 5. Who should we be listening to at the moment while we’re practising our social distancing? 6. Is there any chance you have a playlist for social distancing that we can share on!
March 27, 2020
Bureau Bites Ep.7 – An AusCham Business Update On COVID-19 In Vietnam
Bureau Bites is a regular "pod-bite" bringing you the latest news from Vietnam and the region. Episode Background The Australian Government has increased measures in its bid to stem the rise of COVID-19 infection rates across its states and territories. They include operating bans on pubs, gyms and indoor sporting venues, cinemas and nightclubs, restaurants and cafes, and places of worship, and include the avoidance of non-essential travel. While the Australian Government has acknowledged that these new restrictions will change the way Australians live, with business owners and their employees being severely affected, what of Australians and Australian businesses in Vietnam? Where do they find themselves in all of this? In order to find out more, we spoke to Simon Fraser, the executive director of AusCham, who is based in Ho Chi Minh City. We asked Simon the following questions: 1. How would you describe your past week? 2. How have Australian businesses in Vietnam been faring since COVID-19 has ramped up? 3. What financial support or otherwise will Australian businesses in Vietnam receive, if any? 4. Does a contingency plan for Australians and Australians with business interests in Vietnam exist should COVID-19 escalate further and continue well into the year and perhaps into next year? 5. What advice is there for Australian business owners in Vietnam at the moment, especially for those that have been or will be hit hard by the situation?   
March 24, 2020
Bureau Bites Ep.6 - Destination Saigon with author Walter Mason
Bureau Bites is a regular "pod-bite" bringing you the latest news from Vietnam and the region. Episode Background Walter Mason is an Australian author who has been visiting Vietnam since 1994 and since then has kept coming back. He has travelled the country with a Vietnamese-Australian monk, stayed in remote monasteries, and spent six months back in 1999 studying Vietnamese language at the Ho Chi Minh City Social Sciences University. Walter has a lifelong interest in Eastern spirituality (he's a practising Buddhist) and Vietnamese food. In 2010, he published his first book, an entertaining travel memoir called Destination Saigon, which he says is "a love letter to Vietnam." In 2013, he followed up the book with Destination Cambodia, another memoir but this time about his adventures in the Kingdom and the reasons why the country has drawn him back again and again since his youth. We were able to speak briefly with Walter over the phone while he was visiting Saigon last week before he had to rush back home to Sydney to be with his family.  We asked Walter the following questions: 1. How long have you been coming to Vietnam? 2. Which places would you recommend travellers to visit in Vietnam? 3. How would you describe Destination Saigon to people looking for a great read? 4. How has your trip been this time round with the Coronavirus playing out? 5. What differences have you noticed in the way Vietnamese are reacting to the Coronavirus compared to Australians? 6. Do you have any uplifting stories about Vietnam amidst all the depressing ones we've been hearing and reading about? 7. Is there a new book in the pipeline?
March 23, 2020
Bureau Bites Ep.5 – Viral untruths, safeguarding against fake news & positive stories
Bureau Bites is a regular "pod-bite" bringing you the latest news from Vietnam and the region. Episode Background The outbreak of COVID-19 worldwide has dominated the news for weeks now with stories of illness, death, economic hardship and isolation. This means there hasn’t been many positive, uplifting, feel-good stories at the top of local and international news feeds. However, recent stories like the reappearance of dolphins in Venice and the visibility of fish in its canals began to catch our attention. There were also reports of a group of elephants that had apparently sauntered into a village in Yunnan, China, got drunk off corn wine and then passed out in a tea garden. It appeared that animals were bouncing back and in the meantime raising our spirits at a time of despair. But were these stories really true? We spoke to Megan Ly from PR Newswire based in Ho Chi Minh City and asked her the following questions:   1. Why do so many untruths go viral? 2. What example comes to mind of an untruth on Vietnamese social media that went viral recently? 3. So how can consumers of news and social media safeguard themselves better from being “scammed” by fake news? 4. And finally, do you have a memorable uplifting “true” story that has come across your desk at PR Newswire since the news of the COVID-19 virus broke?
March 21, 2020
Bureau Bites Ep.4 – Bars locked down or not? And innovation thanks to COVID-19
Bureau Bites is a regular "pod-bite" bringing you the latest news from Vietnam and the region. Episode Background In a previous episode, we reported that bars and nightclubs in all of Saigon's 24 districts were to be closed from Sunday, March 15th from 6pm. However, a high-profile case has emerged since, where a British man unknowingly carrying COVID-19 visited a District 2 bar on multiple occasions after the supposed lockdown. It's created anxiety within the tight-knit community and has raised questions about a seemingly grey area between the definition of what's a bar and what's not. We ask hospitality industry insider Richie Fawcett from The Studio Saigon his thoughts on the situation and its possible impact on the hospitality industry in Saigon for the foreseeable future.  We ask him the following questions: 1. What are your thoughts given that there was supposed to be a lockdown on bars in all districts of Saigon? 2. What impact is COVID-19 going to have on the hospitality industry in Saigon for the foreseeable future? 3. What innovations in hospitality do yo predict might come out of all this? 4. If he were to create a cocktail to sum up the situation we find ourselves in, what would it be like?  
March 21, 2020
Bureau Bites Ep.3 – What's it like under house quarantine?
Bureau Bites is a regular "pod-bite" bringing you the latest news from Vietnam and the region. Episode Background The Vietnamese Government has moved swiftly in its efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Travellers entering the country or who have travelled or transited through COVID-19 hotspots will go into quarantine (as of recording date). Some businesses have been directly affected and forced to close after unknowingly serving patrons carrying the virus. We talk to Stanley Boots, founder of 7 Bridges Brewing Co. in Danang, who, along with his staff of 45, has been under house quarantine for almost two weeks after it was discovered two patrons carrying COVID-19 had visited his Danang taproom.  We ask him: 1. What exactly happened? 2. How is life under house quarantine? 3. What does the future hold for 7 Bridges Brewing Co.?  
March 18, 2020
Bureau Bites Ep.2 – Travel Restrictions, Quarantine & Holidays
Bureau Bites is a regular "pod-bite" bringing you the latest news from Vietnam and the region. Episode Background The Vietnamese Government has announced temporary changes to the entry & exit of foreigners due to Coronavirus Visas on arrival for all foreign nationals have been suspended Vietnam's tourism industry has been decimated with estimated losses starting at US$7 billion for the first quarter of 2020 We ask Linh Le, principal founder of Luxperia, an inbound travel company tailoring boutique travel experiences throughout Asia, the following questions: 1. What impact is COVID-19 having on tourism in Vietnam at the moment? 2. What are the short-term and long-term repercussions that the industry can expect? 3. What are companies like Luxperia doing to survive this downturn?
March 17, 2020
Bureau Bites Ep.1 – Saigon Bars, Beer Clubs, Spas & Nightclub Closures
Bureau Bites is a regular "pod-bite" bringing you the latest news from Vietnam and the region. Background City officials have decided it's time to close bars and nightclubs in Saigon indefinitely in a bid to contain COVID-19 Restaurants remain open Chris Thompson (editor-at-large Harper's Bazaar Vietnam magazine) answers these questions: 1. What immediate impact is the decision to close bars and clubs going to have on businesses in the hospitality industry? 2. Why have restaurants been spared for now? 3. What's the long-term impact going to be for Saigon's hospitality industry? 4. What options are there for people who still want to dine out or go for a drink?
March 16, 2020
Episode 9 – On location at Coolabah Saigon celebrating International Women's Day
In this "sporty" episode on location at much-loved Saigon pub Coolabah, we celebrate International Women's Day with special guest Naomi Skinner ( who has spent the past 6 months running 2,000km from Hanoi to Saigon to raise money for charity. On her rest day, she pops in and tells us over a few sneaky "rehydrating" beers about her odyssey and how she reckons roadside dogs in southern Vietnam are way more chilled than their northern counterparts who, she says, "chase to kill".  On the panel, Matt and Mel are joined by the effervescent Jackie Lam who's filling in for Mike this episode. Jackie is a wine connoisseur and with her husband has grown a successful wine distribution business called RADA Vietnam ( supplying premium Australian wines to consumers Vietnam-wide. We also find out that she loves nothing better than (with a glass of vino in hand, of course) watching her AFL Sydney Swans boys run around the field in their tighty tight shorts and flexing their rippling muscles . We also get on The Bureau Hotline and cold-call concierges from three 5-star hotels in Saigon and ask them to recommend a bar and a restaurant to take our lovely lady for International Women's Day. #GetExcited     
March 8, 2020
Episode 8 – Bureau Bites, The Bureau Hotline & Sustainability
In the 2020 return of The Bureau Podcast, Matt, Mike & Mel get straight into Bureau Bites, a segment in which they tell each other what they've got up to related to F&B in Saigon since the previous episode. Mel revisits some old favourite dining haunts from over a decade ago, Mike let's us know about a new burger joint in town, and Matt introduces his #MealsOnWheels side project on Instagram that has him visiting the best street food joints he can find on his motorbike. During The Bureau Hotline segment, the 3M's give carnivore-turned-vegan Hien Tran a call. Hien is passionate about sustainable food production, animal welfare, farming, cooking and eating. He has his own blog called Green Schug ( and is also a mentor for Challenge22 (, a project that supports people transitioning towards becoming vegan. Then in the final segment Get Excited, the trio reveal one thing each that's got them excited about trying. #GetExcited!
February 15, 2020
Episode 7 - New bar & resto openings, a sambal tasting & The Best of The Bureau 2019
In this "Royal-themed" episode with Matt, Mike & Mel, The Bureau Briefs returns in which Mel gives a big tick of approval to an iconic Saigon teahouse & bakery that has reopened its doors, but then stunningly cries "foul" over a much-hyped (and highly-rated) flame grilled chicken restaurant new to town. Meanwhile, Mike pays out on Matt for taking him on their own wild goose chase in search of a new Japanese-themed venue out the back blocks of Thu Duc. We give the Queen of Sambal, Imelda Van der Wulp of Imelda's Kitchen, a call and she talks us through an eye-watering taste test of her beautifully fragrant and spicy new batch of authentic Indonesian sambal made right here in Saigon, after which we roll out the first category of our Best of The Bureau 2019 cocktail bars. Finally, as usual, we give a shout out to some interesting social media accounts that we like from Vietnam and the region, followed by our final observations on what's happening in hospitality in Saigon. #GetExcited!
November 24, 2019
Episode 6 – Food trucks, collaborations, Harper's Bazaar Vietnam Star Awards & Movember in Saigon
In another fun-packed episode with Matt, Mike & Mel, The Bureau Briefs is back bigger than ever in which we chat about some of the many events we wriggled our way into AND didn’t quite make it to over the past two weeks, we get the lowdown on the Harper's Bazaar Vietnam Star Awards night of nights, we get all fuzzy and excited about some new arrivals on the Saigon foodie scene, and we announce the prizes for next month's Movember.
October 19, 2019
Episode 5 – Footy pies, luxury hotels, a new concept store & business lunches in Saigon
This episode The Bureau Briefs is back with some of the events we wriggled our way into over the past fortnight, we drool over some of Saigon’s best set lunches for business meetings as recommended by 5-star hotel concierges about the city, then we get all fuzzy and excited about some new arrivals on the scene, and finally, we give a shout out to some of our favourite influencers. Get excited!
October 5, 2019
Episode 4 – Gin & craft beer fests & plenty more on location at Saigon bar Ruby Soho
In this episode of The Bureau Podcast we’re at long-running, neighbourhood favourite Ruby Soho, a Saigon bar dedicated to pop-culture and the love of music, we introduce The Bureau Briefs, a new segment in which we review our past week or so in hospitality, we reveal what's got us excited in F&B since our last episode, and we chat to our headliner, French animator and Ruby Soho owner, Fred Serra, about his radio station project that creates playlists to dine for. Mike also gets humiliated by Mel in our pub quiz! Get excited!
September 19, 2019
Episode 3 – Saigon's changing skyline, cocktails named after its streets, all on location at The Studio Saigon
This week on The Bureau Podcast we’re at The Studio Saigon and we chat about what’s got us excited in F&B in Saigon since our last episode, the "bartist" Richie Fawcett steps in for Mike who's gone MIA in Danang, and we chat with architect Dr Hoanh Tran about Saigon's rapidly changing skyline and its gentrification, while Richie talks about his Cloud 9 Project. 
September 5, 2019
Episode 2 – Beyond Burgers, Beers & Sustainability in F&B in Saigon
In this episode on location at Fresh Catch Vietnam, we chat about what's got us excited in F&B in Saigon since our last episode, we sink our teeth into Beyond Burgers, then catch up with serial Saigon restaurateur Albin Deforges to talk about seafood sustainability, we "sip test" two beers about to be released on the market, and we ask, what ever happened to the Strawpocalypse?
August 26, 2019
Episode 1 - The Pilot
In our very first episode we chat about what's got us excited in F&B in Saigon the past week or so, we wonder whether we actually care if food is "authentic" or not, the meaning of W.T.F.A.T.B.A.O.F.N. is revealed, and we wonder what ever happened to celebrity chef Bobby Chinn?
August 26, 2019