Born in Bangkok and raised in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Supaksorn (Ice) Jongsiri began his culinary journey at a young age as an apprentice to his grandmother who dedicated her time to home cooking traditional style Southern Thai dishes. She was his first teacher, and inspired him to pursue a career surrounding food. Ice recalls her fried rice noodles with water mimosa as the epitome of a heartfelt effort that deserves to be fully appreciated by others.
His grandmother opened the original Baan Ice restaurant, which later became the first business that Ice, the oldest grandson, oversees. While he was studying abroad in the United States, he worked as a line cook in a Thai restaurant. Returning to Thailand after his grandmother retired, she passed on not only her repertoires but also the eatery to him. Despite never attending culinary school, Ice managed to gain both the reputation and customers for Baan Ice and its family style Southern Thai feast.
After five years of planning, Sorn opened its doors to the public in May 2018 to represent refined Southern cuisine, rather than a fine dining concept. Apart from supervising and training his staff, Ice also tests and cooks the creations, and stays in-house at least three days a week especially on a busy day. The Head Chef Yodkwan (Yod) U-pumpruk has long been a childhood friend and worked at Baan Ice since the beginning. The team of Southern born Thai chefs would start prepping for the 6pm dinner service each day at 10am. Their curry paste is made from scratch in old-fashioned mortars, the coconut milk is freshly grated and squeezed by hand with the coconut “rabbit” grater, and every fish is grilled on charcoal upon serving. Moreover, all the curry and soup here are slow-cooked, giving a blast of bold and robust flavours that balance just right when complimented with rice.
Both Baan Ice and Sorn specialise in Southern Thai cuisine, but the experience at Sorn offers new ingredients and a unique style. “Sorn is a different species,” he tells me, “It is not simply upgrading grandmother’s cooking.” What Ice previously noticed about Baan Ice was that his clients would order specific menus typically known as classic Southern. They were often in a hurry and ate the same dishes repetitively, so Sorn changes and rotates newborn menus to accommodate any comparison.
In the upscale dining room, the parade of over 26-course tasting menus ranges from Amuse Bouche, Prelude, Vegetables, The rice, The Thai way of sharing, Condiments, The one dish, Palate cleanser sorbet, Sweets, and Petit four. Ice and Chef Yod sometimes still have room for another meal after finishing the multiple dinner courses elsewhere, and want to make sure that their guests leave completely full.
Other than promoting Thai produce, Sorn also supports local fishermen, rice growers and farmers from all 14 provinces of Southern Thailand. They have built connections with the people who supply every element on the plate, even the seasonings. “Things can get lost along the way if you don’t pay attention,” Ice notes. Some rare ingredients like shrimp and chilies are very small, therefore require extra care when buying and transporting to Bangkok. Ice has a long-term goal to keep developing the raw quality of seafood, herbs, meat, and crops together with the producers in order to bring the best fare to the clientele today and a superior version tomorrow.
The vision of Ice as the Executive Chef and Owner of Sorn, although he modestly disregards the label “chef”, goes as far as the geography and history of Southern food. He points out different provinces on the wooden wall map of Southern part of Thailand while explaining the origins of each ingredient. “Southern Thai food is a combination of love and survival,” he says, “with influences from the seas and the mountains as well as the soldiers’ way of eating from the colonial era, the islanders, and the neighbouring countries.” Adhering to the transparent background, the food presentation at Sorn is a reminder of accurate stories, meticulous techniques, and detail-oriented foodways from the past.
Sorn most proudly won a Michelin star within the first year of opening, making it challenging to reserve a table. Ice and his crew aim to prove that they, as one of the very few Thai Michelin-starred restaurants in Bangkok, deserve it. Sorn will gradually and steadily grow with a passion to go all in, making the single round of dinner service per day count.