A recent winner of ‘Iron Chef Thailand’, Eric Weidmann is an executive chef at Café Claire at the Oriental Residence Bangkok.

Eric, who trained at the French School of Cuisine in Nice and has 15 years of experience in the culinary and hospitality industries, joined Café Claire’s roster just eight months ago when he moved to Thailand. Just a few short months after his arrival in the country he was ready to enter ‘Iron Chef Thailand’ and compete successfully against the renowned Chef Gai. He managed to win the match with his oyster-based dishes and a quail egg-based dish. His amazing performance on the show was intriguing and Hotelintel.co wanted to know more about him.

What makes your food unique?

My food is not unique, it’s just different because I use French recipes along with imported products, local products, and seasonal products. We try to cook using modern techniques, incorporating my experience in Southern French cuisine, and love, which brings out the difference.

What are the challenges of being a chef today?

The biggest challenge is having to work long hours. For me, I start at 8 am and work until 9 pm, always standing and walking in the kitchen. But we do it because of our passion for cooking.

Do special tools or techniques matter to your cooking? If so, can you tell us what they are and how they are incorporated into your cooking?

Yes, we focus on quality, using modern techniques, creating innovative menus, while incorporating this with traditional culinary style and local ingredients. But having good products is the key – if we have good products, there is no need to do much – having good ingredients gets you 60% of the way towards a good dish. Having fancy modern refrigerators won’t help much with the taste, but it helps with cooking speed and controlling the temperature.

What is your CSR initiative?

At the moment, I have been in Thailand for eight months and I have been granted the title of President for the Disciples Escoffier Delegation Thailand (an organization established to honor the memory of Auguste Escoffier, one of the greatest chefs in the world who changed the structure and organization of the kitchen and also focused on the hygienic aspects of the culinary world). We try to preserve his work and promote culinary education for youths by encouraging them and training them through apprenticeships. Then, later on, we have them participate in competitions around the world, allowing them to become more open-minded.

Can cost control become problematic in cooking? Does it stop the creativity of chefs or compromise the quality of the food?

Cost control won’t stop the creativity at all. Beautiful dishes can be created using cheap ingredients, while serving dishes with high costs is not realistic. A chef must adapt to the changes of recipe and cost. I must think about the commercial aspect of it as well.

Can ingredients be replaced? For example, replacing Norwegian salmon with Thai salmon.

Personally, I am not a fan of freshwater fish, like the ones from Thailand. I prefer fish raised in the sea because farm-raised fish are given too many antibiotics. In my conscience, I prefer sea-raised fish because it is more sustainable and is the better choice overall.

What is the most challenging part of the job when you’re cooking?

Picking the ingredients, because creating the menus is easy after the product is seen. When you have a good product, the creativity comes by itself.

What was the first meal you ever cooked?

Apple tart *chuckles*, it tasted quite bad because it was my first attempt, but it got better. The first time was a deception *laughs*.

What is the beauty of cooking?

The beauty of cooking for me is the emotion that comes with it. The best part is when the guests eat and enjoy the moments – the good moments of sharing.