In a remarkable 40 year career, we learn about Chef Vichit’s favourite cuisine, his biggest inspiration, and what message he has for young chefs in Thailand today
Tell us about yourself.
When I was little, living in Chonburi, I would help my mum cook. From her, I absorbed a lot of knowledge about cooking. That’s the reason I became a chef. Now, over 40 years later, and I teach many other young chefs to cook. This has brought recognition and fame, as well as opportunities to travel and give cooking demonstrations, both abroad and in Thailand.
What’s your background and how did you become a chef?
I started working in a Chinese restaurant. I did all the kitchen work. I worked in five-star hotels in Bangkok and Phuket as Chef de Cuisine and at a French restaurant. I started to learn butchery skills along the way. Finally, I decided to deny a lot of the international cooking jobs and focus on my passion, to improve the positioning of Thai food and bring it up to fine dining status.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learnt as a chef?
Hygiene. That means when purchasing, procurement, and storage. With my experience working in the Mandarin Oriental and other leading hotels, you can’t underestimate how important good hygiene is. I earned my “HACCP” certificate so all food prepared and cooked by me can is guaranteed to be at the very highest standard, always.
Who have been your biggest influences?
My mum taught me of how to cook. I learnt so much from her. Not to mention that she is my inspiration.
What are some of your favourite countries and cuisines?
I do like Japan in terms of respect for their culture, regulations and also, the participation of their people. Most Japanese food is healthy. In many ways, it matches with my own intentions, which is to focus on and promote Thai food. I have planted several plants in Nong Prue and Chonburi for using them in my own cooking, such as tamarind, rice, lemon, and mango.
Tell us about Khao Thai Restaurant and Khao Dessert Cafe.
I want my restaurant to represent Thai identity, presented in a true Thai way and using premium Thai materials. I wish to reposition Thai food, informing foreigners that in Thailand, we are not just good at street food but also, fine dining as well. People say, “Rice is the main food of Thailand, people love growing and eating rice,” which is true but it’s more than that. I plant Red Jasmin Rice, it occupies special characteristics that is alternated carbohydrate into glucose, under 30%, while other rice does more than 100%. I use this as the main rice in my restaurant, both in Ekamai and Khao Dessert Cafe, which recently opened (July 7) at Siam Paragon, offering the concept of “Thai Afternoon Tea” and combining quality tea products from Chiang Mai.
And there’s a Chef’t Table, correct?
I opened a Chef’s Table at Sukhumvit 5, 13 years ago. Now, we have moved to Ekamai where we can serve more people and customers don’t have to make a reservation months and months in advance. The concept here is a “Surprise Menu” served at 12:00pm and 6pm, each for around 4-12 people. Food courses are between 6-10-courses.
Where are your favourite places to eat in Thailand?
I like to eat seafood in Chonburi, by the eastern Gulf of Thailand’s coast. The fresh seafood from the pier is my favourite.
What message would you give young chefs working in Thailand today?
You must love cooking as your basis habit. Adapt and learn everyday. Focus on these three main things: Premium Product—look for the freshest and best quality ingredients to produce overall high quality and taste; Thai Taste—learn to season and flavour for better taste; and New Looks—get traditional foods and modernise, but do not escape the authentic Thai way.
What does the future hold for Thai cuisine?
Thai food is quite famous in foreign countries already, promoting unique and raw materials, such as fresh herbs, which are good for your health. Anyone who eats Thai food always things wow! It’s special and different from other foods in the world. I hope that Thai food continues to travel and grow in popularity, becoming more and more popular.
Interview by David J. Constable