Catching Up with the Star Chefs of Bangkok's World Gourmet Festival
The annual World Gourmet Festival at Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel attracts some of the globe’s brightest culinary lights to Bangkok this month. Monsicha Hoonsuwan chats with three of the chefs who will be fueling this gathering.
Published on Sep 8, 2016
Gyuu no tataki at Nihonbashi, in Colomb
Being of Sri Lankan and Japanese heritage gives chef Munidasa an edge. “Bringing out the subtlest elements of local and seasonal ingredients is the basis of Japanese cuisine,” he says. “My style, even if it is Sri Lankan cuisine, is deeply rooted in this.” He founded one of the island’s top Japanese restaurants, Nihonbashi (prix fixe dinner from Rs3,250), and the Sri Lankan seafood joint Ministry of Crab (mains from Rs960).
Gyuu no tataki at Nihonbashi, in Colomdo
Sri Lanka seafood spot Ministry of Crab
“Walking the alleyways of Tsukiji fish market and spending time with everyone I know there—from those who sell chopsticks to tuna to tea—as well as cooking with my cousin by the riverside in Japan both play a big role in inspiring me.”
“The 100-plus-kilogram bigeye tuna is the freshest we can buy in Sri Lanka. High fat content in the warmwater tuna is very rare and far superior in taste compared to its coldwater counterpart.”
“I always find myself heading to my friend’s ryokan Bettei Senjuan [doubles from ¥36,100 per person including two meals], in Japan’s Gunma Prefecture. I go there once a year, for a day or two, to switch off.”
Ryokan Bettei Senjuan, in Gunma, Japan
“Jubako [prix fixe from ¥13,000] in Tokyo, a 230-year-old restaurant specializing in unagi, is my favorite. They preserve the ageold cooking techniques and skills beyond the cutting board, knives and fire—like how and when an eel is killed.”
“The most valuable experience I have ever received is how to grade crab in Pettah Fish Market, in Colombo, by people who export crabs for a living. This lesson, in the late 90s, eventually helped me create Ministry of Crab.”
“My daughter and I were making burgers at home one afternoon and the meat was so bad we ended up adding Wagyu fat. From there stemmed the Nihonbashi Wagyu burger [US$100 for two; 24-hour advance order] as it is today.”
Globe-trotting Bobby Chinn is a master of cross-cultural cuisine. At his award winning eponymous eateries in Vietnam, Chinn enhanced Southeast Asian flavors with French techniques, Middle Eastern spices and Californian sensibility. “I am in constant evolution,” Chinn says. “I adapt my creativity towards what I feel I can execute well and what the market might appreciate.”
“Getting my first paycheck as a cook from chef Hubert Keller at the bygone Fleur de Lys, in San Francisco. I was passionate, but to be paid to cook in one of the most respected restaurants made me feel like a professional. I never looked back.”
“KISS: keep it simple, stupid—within reason. If it’s to be complicated, then remember the KISS formula.”
“I’ll be cooking Scotch egg at the Anantara Siam Bangkok. It’s really quite simple, but time-consuming. I boil an egg for five minutes, blanch it to stop it from cooking, peel it, cook it for an hour at 65 degrees for perfectly tender white and thick creamy yolk, then bread it and deep fry until it’s golden brown.”
“Lemongrass adds fresh citrus nuance without the acidity. So I use it to marinate my duck confit.”
BEST OF BANGKOK
“Eat Me [dinner for two Bt3,000] opened my eyes to the wealth of ingredients available in Thailand. We chefs in the region are proud of Gaggan’s [prix fixe Bt4,000] success. I am also impressed with the refinement of the royal Thai cuisine at Benjarong [prix fixe dinner from Bt1,500].”
Bangkok fixture Eat Me serves international cuisine
Red Match at Gaggan
The talented Japanese chef got his start in a French kitchen before going back to his roots at acclaimed chef Seiji Yamamoto’s three- Michelin-starred Nihonryori Ryugin (prix fixe ¥27,000) in Tokyo. His Hong Kong hot spot Ta Vie (prix fixe dinner HK$1,880), which churns out Japanese-influenced French dishes that feature Asian produce, earned its first Michelin star in 2015.
Pasta with aonori and uni at Ta Vie
“Pure, simple and seasonal, like my favorite Asian cuisine, Japanese.”
ONE TO WATCH…
“Chef Ryohei Hieda of Shoun Ryugin [prix fixe NT$6,500] is making dishes using Taiwanese ingredients. What he’s doing will be the new standard of Japanese food in Asia.”
“Seiji Yamamoto, of Nihonryori Ryugin, is a genius. He’s the first to make bubbles with an aquarium pump. Now many chefs follow the trick he introduced to the world.”
“I really love Andr. Chiang’s creations at two-Michelin-starred Restaurant André [prix fixe dinner S$350], in Singapore; down-toearth dishes at Neighborhood [fb.com/neighborhoodhk; dinner for two HK$600], in Hong Kong; and highquality food at Sühring [prix fixe from Bt1,800], in Bangkok.”
Restaurant André, in Singapore
“Asia inspires me. Now I really want to visit Borobudur. I feel like it could inspire my imagination and relieve me of daily pressure.”
The World Gourmet Festival runs September 19-25 at the Anantara Siam Bangkok; visit worldgourmetfestivalasia.com for chefs’ schedules and meal prices.