One day I walked in and applied for a job in newly opening hotel and again I applied for the position of 'server'.
Starting from the ground up, Vana Belle, A Luxury Collection Resort, Koh Samui's Chef Nattanan Deeruang embarked on his career as a cook's helper in a local Thai restaurant. He worked constantly at updating his knowledge through training and learning from the people around him, moving his way up the ranks to where he is now in his current position as Head Chef at Koh Samui's Vana Bell, Luxury Collection.
Despite specializing in Thai cuisine, Chef Nattanan also brings with him extensive cooking experience in other global cuisines including Italian, Japanese, and Korean.
Why did you Decide to Become a Chef?
How I became a cook in the first place is a very funny story. I grew up with cooking shows on television. I loved to watch these TV cooking shows - when I was young I was a very chubby boy! I liked to eat. The TV broadened my culinary horizons, and I began to explore food cultures of the world. The food recipes I was being exposed to subconsciously stuck in my mind.
And so the story starts when I applied for a job. I wasn't too confident applying as a cook, because I had never learnt at a formal culinary institution. Given that, I applied for a job as a server, and I never actually passed the interview for that position. One day I walked in and applied for a job in newly opening hotel and again I applied for the position of 'server'.
But on that day the F&B manager was not there to interview me. Yes, on that day the Executive Chef interviewed me, and I got the job as cook on the first go! That's how I started my journey as a chef.
Now I'll answer the question as to why I decided to become a chef. My answer is that I love cooking; I love to see the guests' smiling faces and the happiness that my food brings to them.
What Makes Your Food Unique?
It all starts from one small thought - that is, 'I want to make people happy when they eat my food'. My food is easy to understand. I have a strong basic desire to cook, and if my food can bring back those tastes of your childhood, then that makes me very happy.
Great food for me is the food that everyone can afford, cooked from fresh and simple ingredients. It doesn't need to use expensive ingredients or have fancy presentation. I focus on the taste of the food. It should be the kind of dish you can enjoy any day, not just on special occasions. You need to feel a certain 'warmth' when you eat and feel happy when you pay the bill.
Is There Any Difference Between Thai Food In Hotels vs Thai Food At Home? If So, What?
Many hotels offer only the standard Thai favorites or typical Thai comfort food, but fortunately our Luxury Collection brand reflects real local food. Many dishes in our restaurant are authentic Southern Thai food. That's why we bring the family dish experience to the restaurant table. It means local tastes from fresh local ingredients, and recipes from native islander families. One big thing that our hotel can promise is hygiene standards, so the food is delivered to the customer with confidence, especially given the importance of hygiene during this pandemic. If your hygiene standards are in place, you can build trust with the customer.
What's The Most Challenging Thing In Running a Kitchen? How Do You Achieve it?
To ensure the same high food safety standards at all time is most challenging for me, because most of us have grown up with home cooking and home food safety standards. When you cook in a hotel, the scale is a lot bigger and there are more procedures to execute. The customers' food safety is our responsibility. So I have ensure that all of my team understand and follow food safety procedures, from receiving the ingredients to serving it to the table. You can have Instagramable food, or a great taste, but it's worthless if the food is not safe for customer.
What's your Advice for Young Chefs Looking to Work in the Hotel Industry?
Your foundation is very important. I mean cooking basics need a positive attitude, passion, ambition and determination. You have to balance it well and with patience. You have to prepare yourself every day. Keep practicing in the areas that you're strong in, and keep improving on those areas where you're weak. When opportunities come, no one will ever tell you, but you have to be ready for that. Nothing is worthless when practicing because everything will serve to make you sharper. It's difficult to motivate yourself constantly, but trust me, just keep practicing and try to do it every day. You will eventually see and understand yourself clearly.
Visit Chef Nattanan Deeruang at Vana Belle, A Luxury Collection Resort, Koh Samui