Bobby Chinn was born in Auckland, New Zealand to an Egyptian mother and a Chinese-American father. His culinary story began at the age of 10, as he began to explore Asian and North African recipes in his grandmothers’ kitchens.
He was educated in San Francisco USA, Cairo, Egypt, and London, England, where he attended Millfield, Somerset UK from 1977 to 1980 on a sports scholarship. Bobby 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).
After graduating, Bobby 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.
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 Groundings, Los Angeles. He then returned to San Francisco to pursue stand-up comedy, performing at The Holy City Zoo.
Bobby'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 Ave., where he became the saucier, but succumbed to a back injury. He work-staged in France, then returned to SF for back surgery.
In 1996, Bobby moved to Ho Chi Minh City 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, Bobby opened The Red Onion overlooking the infamous "Hanoi Hilton". The success of the restaurant gave Bobby the opportunity to open his eponymous restaurant in 2001, Restaurant Bobby Chinn.
In 2013, Bobby moved to London and launched a modern Vietnamese concept at "The House of Ho" in 2014 at 100 Wardour Street - which occupies the former site of The 2i's Coffee Bar, Soho. This has now been sold to a group of private investors.In 2012, he was appointed WWF Ambassador for Sustainable Seafood As WWF's Sustainable Seafood Ambassador for the Coral Triangle, helping 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.
Bobby’s television career was launched with his first solo TV show "World Café Asia" on TLC – 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. The second season World Café Middle East was of 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, Bobby 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.
He has worked with some of the leading TV food personalities including Keith Floyd, Martha Stewart, Anthony Bourdain, Antony Worrall Thompson and Andrew Zimmern."Wild Wild East: Recipes & Stories from Vietnam", 2007 (reprinted as "Vietnamese Food" in 2014). An authentic guide to Vietnamese food as it is eaten today and modern adaptations of traditional dishes.