Na-Chanok Ratanadaros's Community Spirit
Na-Chanok Ratanadaros smiles as he sips a designer coffee. “My nickname has always been Golf but nowadays people call me Uncle G. It started with my wife, Sikanya Saktidej Bhanubandh, who called me uncle when she was young. I knew her mother Sirikarn and Sikanya and I were friends for years before we started dating and then married. The uncle nickname stuck,” he laughs.
Now 54, Golf left Thailand as a teenager to attend high school in England before moving to the US. After a brief stint at the California Polytechnic State University he settled at Syracuse University where he studied for a bachelor’s degree in architecture. Returning to Thailand in 1986 he took on the challenge of starting his own design firm but it wasn’t easy, as he points out.
"The postmodern styles and architectural trends of New York, for example, were far too innovative for Thailand at the time but there were exciting projects to work on because the high-end shopping mall scene was starting to boom.”
Already an award-winning student designer, over the next 13 years Golf helped to design the Central Chidlom department store, Gaysorn Plaza and the Emporium. “I have to say though that the work was sometimes frustrating because the clients hired overseas architecture and interior design houses and we became their partner team in Thailand, which meant that we were implementing designs that weren’t really ours.”
Working for the Mall Group on the Emporium project had an upside however, because it led to a second career as a restaurateur. “In 1986 they asked me to find a Thai restaurant for the Emporium,” he says, admitting that running a restaurant was something he’d always wanted to do. So Ging Kalpapruek became his first venture in the business. He ran it for 16 years before stepping away to open another eatery, Chingcha Charlee, and eventually Italian restaurant and club Fallabella. First opened at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, today Fallabella has outlets at IconSiam and Thonglor 13.
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“We were one of the leaders in fine dining and nightlife and one of the first to offer prosecco and Grey Goose vodka as house drinks over whiskey. I remember buying the few hundred or so bottles of prosecco the wine suppliers had and let me tell you, back then there were less than a handful of suppliers. But you know what, within three months Fallabella alone went through over 2,000 bottles of prosecco. We really kept the suppliers busy,” he laughs.
As an experienced traveller Golf is always on the lookout for something fresh and new to bring to his restaurants. Our conversation takes place at The Director, a new venture within the Fallabella outlet at the Seenspace Community Mall in Thonglor 13. Never one to rest on his laurels, he says The Director is designed to be a coffee house during the day and a dining room and wine bar by night.
“The fact is we need to be busy throughout the day rather than just in the evenings,” the father of three by his first marriage explains. “I just want people to have a good time. Hence we’re hoping to turn this into something like a Fallabella food plaza, our own little culinary kingdom with pop-ups and booths selling street food over live music. It should be bustling.” His plan includes entertainment nights on Fridays and Saturdays while other days are reserved for what he calls “chiller nights with the family”.
Following a soft launch in late November last year, he hopes to have everything in place by the end of this month. “There will be crepes, beef bowls, pizzas, cold cuts and cheese, dim sum and even a pop-up for visiting chefs. It’s going to be fun!”
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