Bobby Chinn

Robert Chinn is an international chef, television presenter, restaurateur and cookbook author. He is a culinary celebrity across Asia and the Middle East, thanks to his role as host of Discovery TLC's World Cafe,[2] and as a judge on MBC's Top Chef Middle East.[3] He opened two award-winning restaurants in Vietnam – Restaurant Bobby Chinn in Hanoi (2001) and Bobby Chinn Saigon in Ho Chi Minh (2011), then relocated to London in 2014 and opened the House of Ho Vietnamese restaurant.[4]

Bobby Chinn
Robert Chinn

(1964-04-03) 3 April 1964 (age 56)
Auckland, New Zealand
Alma materRichmond College (B.A., Finance and Economics, 1986)[1]
OccupationChef, TV host, restaurateur, author

Early life and educationEdit

Bobby Chinn was born in Auckland, New Zealand to an Egyptian mother and a Chinese-American father.[5] His culinary story began at the age of 10, as he began to explore Asian and North African recipes in his grandmothers' kitchens.

Chinn was a graduate of the Urban School of San Francisco. He was also educated in Cairo, Egypt, and London, England, where he attended Millfield, Somerset UK from 1977 to 1980 on a sports scholarship. He attended the College of Marin, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California and Richmond College in London, where he graduated with a BA in Finance and Economics (1986).[1] In 2020 he was awarded an honorary PhD in Liberal Arts from Richmond College.

After graduating, Chinn worked as a research analyst in Boca Raton, Florida, then a hedge fund in San Francisco, before moving to New York City where he worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.[6]

In 1990, he worked for Blue Shell, supplying Prince Edward Island mussels and oysters to the top restaurants in New York City. Chinn enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in New York, but dropped out in order to study improvisational comedy at The Groundlings, Los Angeles. He then returned to San Francisco to pursue stand-up comedy, performing at the Holy City Zoo.

He can speak English and Egyptian Arabic.

Chef Bobby ChinnEdit

Chinn's culinary career began at the Elka Restaurant in the Miyako Hotel in San Francisco, working under notable chefs Elka Gilmore and Traci Des Jardins. His big break came from Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys, where he worked the pantry for a year. He was part of the opening team at the Coconut Grove on Van Ness Avenue, where he became the saucier, but succumbed to a back injury. He work-staged in France, then returned to San Francisco for back surgery.

In 1996, Chinn moved to Ho Chi Minh City[7] and worked at La Camargue restaurant. Within six months, he had opened his own restaurant, Saigon Joe's, and moved to Hanoi to open another restaurant, Miro. In 1997, he opened the Red Onion, overlooking the infamous "Hanoi Hilton".[8] The success of the restaurant gave him the opportunity to open his eponymous restaurant in 2001, Restaurant Bobby Chinn.[9]

In 2014, Chinn moved to London and launched a modern Vietnamese concept at The House of Ho, which occupies the former site of The 2i's Coffee Bar, Soho.[10] This has now been sold to a group of private investors.

Ambassador rolesEdit

  • In 2012, he was appointed WWF Ambassador for Sustainable Seafood.[11] As WWF's Sustainable Seafood Ambassador for the Coral Triangle, he helped WWF raise awareness on the importance of responsible seafood consumption, particularly in the Coral Triangle region, to help alleviate pressures on coastal and marine environments and dwindling fish populations.
  • In 2014, he was appointed Tourism Ambassador for Vietnam in Europe.[12]


Chinn's television career was launched with his first solo TV show, World Café Asia, on TLC[13][2] – also known as Planet Food on the Discovery Channel – presenting a taste of Asia through traditional street stalls, hawker centres, acclaimed restaurants and hot spots. He was awarded 'Best Entertainment Presenter' at the Asia TV Awards for the series in 2007.[14] The second season, World Café Middle East, had equal success, and he was awarded 'Best Entertainment Programme' by the Asia TV Awards 2010. The show was re-cut and sold to Globe Trekker. He hosted Globe Trekker Food Hour: Ireland in 2014, and Globe Trekker Food Hour: Sicily in 2015. Following the success of his first show, Chinn hosted a second show with Discovery Network, called Bobby Chinn Cooks Asia, a travel cookery series which highlights Asian recipes laced with local history and culture.

Chinn is currently a judge on MBC's Top Chef Middle East.[15]

He has worked with some of the leading TV food personalities including Keith Floyd, Martha Stewart, Anthony Bourdain, Antony Worrall Thompson and Andrew Zimmern.

Personal lifeEdit

Chinn is the grandson of former Egyptian military commander Saad El Shazly.[16]


  • Wild Wild East: Recipes & Stories from Vietnam, 2007 (reprinted as Vietnamese Food in 2014). Shortlisted for best Asian cookbook in the World Gourmand Food Awards. It is both an authentic guide to Vietnamese food with recipes for modern adaptations of traditional dishes and a roller-coaster journey of Chinn's adventures in Vietnam. In the foreword, Anthony Bourdain claims that "what Bobby doesn’t know about Southeast Asian food is not worth knowing".[17]


  1. ^ a b Lippoldt, Karen, "From Wall Street to master chef: Bobby Chinn" Archived 19 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Richmond College Alumni news, October, 2013
  2. ^ a b "World Cafe 2".
  3. ^ "Top Chef - MBC 1 -".
  4. ^ "Bobby Chinn heads to the UK for new Vietnamese restaurant in London".
  5. ^ ><
  6. ^ Post, The Jakarta. "Bobby Chinn: All grown up".
  7. ^ Heiter, Celeste (4 August 2003). "The Pharaoh of Fine Dining in the Far East". Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  8. ^ "CNN - y: 'Hanoi Hilton' now holds only painful memories - April 27, 2000".
  9. ^ "full biography". Deborah McKenna. Archived from the original on 9 July 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  10. ^ "THE HISTORY OF THE 2i's COFFEE BAR". 5 June 2009.
  11. ^ "Promoting sustainable seafood production". 1 November 2013.
  12. ^ "Bobby Chinn named Vietnam tourism ambassador in Europe". 18 July 2014.
  13. ^ "Interview with: Celebrity Egyptian/Chinese Chef Bobby Chinn". ahramonline. 20 April 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  14. ^ "Bobby Chinn". Archived from the original on 6 June 2014. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
  15. ^ Ahmad, Tarek (19 September 2016). "Top Chef Middle East set to dish up Arab talent". Al Arabiya English. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  16. ^ "A True Culinary Artisan". Insight Egypt. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  17. ^ Bobby Chinn (2008). Wild, Wild East: Recipes & Stories from Vietnam. Barron's. ISBN 978-0-7641-6149-0.

External linksEdit