Minh was one of many guests at the gala dinner that served economic leaders in Hanoi in 2006, the first time Vietnam hosted the APEC Summit.
Ever since that moment, he has nurtured the dream of preparing a set of tableware of international stature for such a gala dinner.
He read everything he could to learn about the concept of a feast of international standards and consulted fellow experts in the field.
His moment arrived in 2014 when he read a VnExpress article about a set of dinnerware that was used for the APEC gala dinner China. With his experience, Minh knew it was something that his company could do.
“Porcelain is a wonderful messenger when it comes to promoting the tradition and culture of a country. This has been proven through a long journey in human history. If Vietnam ever hosts APEC again, I have to take that chance,” he thought.
That thought marked the first step of a journey that the boss of Minh Long and his staff have been on for the past two years.
“I didn't know if Minh Long would get the contract to prepare the gala dinner when APEC returned to Vietnam, but at that moment, I could even imagine what the tableware would look like in my head. I just showed my staff how to design, paint and even make the molds for my dream products.”
And just like that, around 30-40 members of Minh Long joined a team to create a set of porcelain which was destined for APEC.
He pictured how the whole set would look at the banquet: the rectangle trays, the number of plates, the shape of the bowls for the soups and salads, the lotus-shaped, gold-plated tea cup lids.
All the designs for this set should be different from any products that Minh Long has ever produced before, Minh told himself.
“We couldn’t tell you how many headaches we had. A team of more than 30 people did everything they could to get this project done. It took us more than six months to come up with the final design ideas,” he said, adding that just one detail like the lotus design was already challenging enough, even for the most patient artists.
The observant will notice that the lotus flower design on Minh Long’s porcelain is completely different from any of his other products.
For decades, Minh collected lotus flower designs he found in Europe and Asia, and bought books and furniture patterns featuring paintings of the flower, but it wasn't until he took a close look at the genuine Vietnamese lotus flower in a pond that he realized that it was the true lotus he had been looking for.
s research into Vietnamese lotus flowers started from that moment. He looked for information on the internet and went through old documents to see how people had painted lotus flowers in the past, with a special focus on the work of Vietnamese author Tran Dinh Son in the Imperial City of Hue, Vietnam’s former capital.
He then worked with artists to come up with a unique design for the lotus flower, which resulted in thousands of different designs being tested.
What makes Minh Long’s design special is a combination of East and West, thanks to a Swiss artist.
“I hired a Swiss artist because I wanted my lotus design to strike both Easterners and Westerners.”
Minh fell in love with the artist's work because the lotus flowers she painted had thick but regular petals that somehow made them look warm and tender at the same time.
Using her paintings, Minh and his designers created the unique design for Minh Long. That design has been painted, printed, sculptured and carved onto different products and is adored by both Asian and Western customers.
The work on other designs such as the birds, temples, pagodas and Vietnamese women was no less tough and took Minh’s team two years to complete. Minh repeatedly made tiny alterations to the designs until everyone in the company agreed they were perfect.
But the APEC journey did not simply end there. The process of finding the right materials, testing and producing the final products lasted for months after that, and hundreds of people were called in for the main project of creating just one set of tableware - the one for the APEC gala dinner.
Dinnerware is not only for dining. In the beginning, humans did not even have plates, bowls or spoons. Dining became a culture and an art. As Nguyen Tuan, a famous Vietnamese writer, once said: “a good meal means good food, good surroundings and good company.”