Chef Achara To-ussami (Aut), a 49 year old Thai national from Samutsakorn province, Thailand, has been with the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok since 1994. She graduated from the Hotel Management program at Suan Dusit university majoring in Food and Beverages. Chef Achara has always been passionate about culinary and has skill in fruit carving. have visited Chef Achara at ‘Erawan Tea Room’ , Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok to talk about her cooking style.

What are your top 3 ingredients in your home kitchen?

Homegrown Thai Herbs, tamarind / palm sugar and vegetables.

Define ‘Authentic Thai Food’ and ‘Thai Taste’

In my humble opinion, the taste of authentic Thai food is a harmonization of sweet, salty, sour, and umami.

What we make at the Tea Room is all ‘Thai Food’ cooked with real ingredients. That also means no MSG and no preservatives. We offer real, authentic Thai look and taste, however some of the dishes that we make like ‘Tom Kha Ocean Trout’ uses imported fish. The taste is still Thai, it’s just that the fish isn’t.

What's Thai Fusion?

I must admit that Thai Fusion dishes do have a very attractive appearance. They are generally creative and people - especially in social media love to take photos of these fusion dishes. Of course, the tastes are also different, but I think it’s all a continuous evolution and revolution.

What makes your Thai food different from other chefs’?

Every chef has his or her personal cooking techniques. What’s unique here is our ingredients. We are selective about our ingredients and where they are from. The quality of ingredients is what sets us apart.

We have guests from every corner of the world, but our food remains authentic in taste and appearance. Of course, there are times when guests request food to be less spicy, and we are happy to adjust that. There are also times when guests would ask to change ingredients-- for example most thai curry pastes contains shrimp paste, so if you are allergic to shrimp, then we can offer you vegetarian curry paste. Sometimes, you can’t find a suitable replacement for some ingredients and in those cases I will have to talk to the guests and make them understand. If too much is changed, we would risk losing that authenticity which is what our Thai food is all about.

Do you implement any CSR programmes?

For three years now, we have been working with Earth Net Organization , a non-profit organization funded by the European Union to help promote fair trade. It is a small - scale fishery project. The fishermen in the village would go catch fish and deliver them to the organization, which would then be delivered to us. We're able to track where those fish are from, and which fisherman caught them for us. We were the first hotel to join the program. All the other fish are from sustainable certified farms as well.

What are you Kitchen Rules

We need to maintain our standards in cooking. That means that everyone must follow the same formulas and recipes.

What advice do you have for anyone aspiring to be successful in Thai cuisine?

First of all, you must really try and ‘taste’ your food. You should also have the ability to look at a new recipe, understand taste that would result, even before having made it. Always be exploring - the same dish may have different tastes from different parts of the country.