It was in 2008 when Camilla Bailey and Casper Gustafsen started working together in Denmark. Now ten years later and half a globe away from their starting point, the pair have become a major power couple in the Saigon culinary world, with their European restaurant MAD House.
“We met in the kitchen. Casper was the head chef. I was the apprentice,” recounts Camilla. After two years, they started dating, and then a few years later moved to Saigon together to work at Chill Sky Bar. Although Casper seems to have gotten the head start in his career, Camilla has become an accomplished chef in her own right, winning contests left, right and centre (including Iron Chef Vietnam in 2013). “I like to enter these contests, and I always win,” she laughs. It would be hard not to think that two headstrong chefs who are partners in both business and life never clash, but Casper and Camilla seem to have figured out the recipe of working and living together without butting heads (too much).
“We can both be bossy,” Camilla admits. “So at MAD House we decided to split the responsibilities. Casper is in charge of the operation of the kitchen, and I take care of the front of the house.” Their respective roles are bolstered by their individual strengths and weaknesses. While Casper can work long untold hours behind the scenes, his shy personality makes him unwilling to hog any of the MAD House spotlight.
“I get to cook everyday. We have staff, but I have to be there. And I want to be there,” sums up Casper. “And I get to do all the fun stuff! Chefs’ dinners, events, competitions.”
When I caught up with the young couple, they were prepping for a new menu. Camilla contributes a few recipes, but ultimately it is Casper who decides how it will be changed. “We do share opinions in terms of taste and food style, so we create and make the big decisions together.” Though of course disagreements do happen, but as per of their pact, if someone has to have the last saying, it’s Casper regarding the kitchen, and Camilla in the front of house.
For these two kitchen maestros, how is dinner at home though? “We never ever cook at home actually. We like to go out and discover restaurants more.” Still, if you ever get to invite them to your dinner party, you’re in for quite a treat. “When we go to our friend’s houses, we usually end up together in the kitchen regardless, since nobody can do it better.”