I Am Generation T: Chef Pichaya Utharnthum
Your appreciation for Thai-Chinese cuisine? It stems from the fact that I was born into the fourth generation of a family of traditional Chinese herbal medicine producers. The countless times my mother and I spent running around the kitchen trying out different recipes is what helped to cultivate my culinary savoir-faire. I finished my apprenticeship in the United States and this intermix between American and Thai-Chinese cuisine continues to shape my cooking philosophy.
The advantages of the chef’s table concept? There’s no fixed cost and it gives clients a new kind of experience in which the food can be customised to their preferences. It is also more intimate and creates little to no waste. That is very important to me. Waste is immoral when you consider the burdens we place on nature in the growing of such vast quantities of food—perverse even, because despite such profusion so many millions of people around the world go hungry every day. With a chef’s table concept I know exactly how many people I have to serve so I don’t need to over-stock any ingredients. If there are any leftovers, they become staff or family meals.
What makes you happy? What makes me happy is sharing my food with others. I believe that dining can happen on a spiritual level, once the cuisine, the wine, the service and the overall ambience transpire in equal measure. My favourite thing about being a chef is being able to put a big part of who I am in a dish. I’m always trying to be innovative.
Your biggest challenge as a female chef? I’d say it is overturning the notion that being a female chef is a big challenge. It’s hard being a chef, period! My team is composed entirely of women and we are like a small family. The ultimate challenge is how to become the best version of yourself and find your strong points and style of cooking. My advice to young aspiring chefs is to maintain their passion and never stop learning and growing. Even now, I am working continually to improve myself and be better at what I do.