The Iron Chef Thailand winner talks about important lessons, his unique style of cooking, and what the future holds for Thai cuisine
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a chef and restaurateur who won Iron Chef Thailand in 2015 cooking mostly Chinese cuisine and I was also a candidate on Top Chef Thailand 2017. I’m also the owner of Lerdtip Restaurant which now has two branches: Thonglor in Bangkok and Wang Hin in northeastern Thailand.
What’s your background and how did you become a chef?
I grew up in a family who were involved in the cooking industry, so food was always around me. I learnt step by step from a very young age. After a while I got bored with it and after thinking that I wanted to be a chef decided that actually, I didn’t. I wanted to try something else instead. It wasn’t very long though before I changed my mind again. I soon realised that life as a chef was my dream and my passion and I shouldn’t run away from it.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learnt as a chef?
There are so many things, but team management is important. I realised very early on that everyone has a role to play and the kitchen works together as a team. This is so important. Everyone has a part to play in a kitchen and restaurant. Sometimes we forget how important all of the small points are, and I’ve learnt to appreciate and respect everyone in the team. In return, they will show respect back. The power of the team is the most important thing.
Who have been your biggest influences?
Regarding my chef life, my biggest inspiration has been my father and the grandfather of my father. There are many lessons and valuable skills that have been passed down, from generation to generation. These are lessons that have helped me endless times and I’m sure will continue to help me and drive me forward for evermore.
What are some of your favourite countries and cuisines?
China is my favourite country. There are many reasons why. Japanese is probably my favourite cuisine.
Tell us about Wanghin-Ladprao.
Lerdtip Wanghin-Ladprao is a family-style restaurant and the first branch in Bangkok. We started by making local Thai-Chinese food in an old restaurant—things like Thai noodle with pork in gravy and steamed crab meat—all based on the local crowd and location, and soon became one of the best restaurants in the area.
Can you describe your style of cooking?
My style is best described as fusion Thai-Chinese & Seafood cuisine due to my Chinese heritage. The way my father taught me is rooted in the Chinese traditions, so there’s lots of stir-fried ingredients cooked in a wok pan, and the use of fire too. Dishes like stir-fried marinated pork with sesame oil, stir-fried spiny lobster with curry paste, fried pork neck spicy salad, and stir-fried wagyu with basil leaves and rice.
Where are your favourite places to eat in Bangkok?
I love Chinatown in Bangkok. I love exploring the streets there and going on my own food explorations through Talat Kao and beyond, discovering all of the real and traditional tastes you can find.
What message would you give young chefs working in Thailand today?
The most important thing is focus in the kitchen and work towards the cuisine and style that you enjoy the most, this way you’ll find your style quickly and be able to achieve success in an area that you really enjoy. Then it’s not work, it’s fun. Once you’ve found the thing that you enjoy and you are good at, you won’t mind the hard work as much, and you’ll be able to create something, putting all of your efforts into it. Follow your passion.
What does the future hold for Thai cuisine?
Thai cuisine continues to grow in popularity and I believe that it will be bigger than ever, I really believe that. Many different chefs are creating many different styles, in Bangkok, Thailand, and beyond. And I think we’ll see more chefs exploring local ingredients, too. Taking local produce and trying to modernise it and do something creative with it. The Thai menu is respected and appreciated all around the world for its breadth and complex flavouring. I expect this popularity to keep growing. It’s why everyone loves Thai food!
Interview by David J. Constable