"The language barrier is the main challenge but in my opinion"
Chef Porntip has over two decades of cooking Thai food for guests not only in her home country, Thailand, but also in the Seychelles, Vietnam, and now at the Banyan Tree in Doha, Qatar.
Throughout her professional journey, Chef Porntip has had numerous opportunities to demonstrate her superior culinary skills. She is an expert in fruit and vegetable carving, which in Thai cuisine is considered a fine art that requires neatness, precision, meditation, and extensive personal ability; she is also highly knowledgeable in Royal Thai cooking and preparation practices. In addition to holding food promotion events across Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts around the world, Chef Porntip has also taken part in gastronomic promotions internationally at the Traube Tonbach Hotel in Germany, The Oberoi Hotels in India, and Shangri-La in Kuala Lumpur to name but a few.
How did you start your journey as a chef?
When I was watching movies or shows at a very young age, I would always tell my mom that I wanted to be a chef when I grew up. She would encourage me and tell me that I should study and follow my passion, which I did. I graduated with a higher vocational certificate in Food and Nutrition, and then I started my first job as a cook helper at Miracle Grand Bangkok. Later, I joined The Twin Tower Hotel Bangkok as a Commis II, then joined Rama Garden as Commis I.
By this time, I had realized that the culinary path was my passion. My Journey with Banyan Tree started in 2002 as Commis I until now in 2021 I have become a Chef de Cuisine.
How do you manage stress in the kitchen?
I have Chef Renu Homsombat, our Saffron corporate chef as my role model, and think about how she would deal with this kind of situation, as well as other senior chefs I’ve worked with. I also practice meditation which helps me to calm down and remain conscious when stress occurs.
What are the main misconceptions about Thai food?
There are various misconceptions about Thai food, whether related to ingredients or taste. As an example, for tom yum goong soup, in some recipes we add non-sweetened evaporated milk, but people think we use coconut milk, which is wrong. In Saffron we don’t use milk at all; instead, we use shrimp paste with soya bean oil and sweet chili paste to make it thick.
Another example is phad Thai where we originally used bean sprouts and chives, not spring onions, and the sauce base only includes tamarind paste, palm sugar, and fish sauce. However, in Saffron we adapt it with ketchup for a better color, and chili sauce for the spiciness. Lastly, in gaeng kiew waan or chicken green curry, the green color comes from a lot of green chili paste mixed with sweet basil leaves. Some people use artificial color to make it green, which is totally wrong in the sense of authenticity.
What’s the most commonly ordered dish outside Thailand?
Of course, that has to be our most famous dishes like pad Thai, massaman nua, gaeng kiew waan, tom yum goong soup, and tom kha gai soup
Having worked in many places around the world, what is one thing you think Thais are lacking when it comes to working in an international setting?
The communications tools, especially the language. The language barrier is the main challenge but in my opinion that is normal for people using English as their second language. Other than that, I am confident that we are qualified for any job in the world in terms of knowledge and stamina.
What’s your advice for young Thais who want to work for international brands?
Well, I would advise them to learn English and practice more. Secondly, they have to be open-minded about cultural differences. For instance, in some cultures, people speak their mind in a very direct and frank way which in Thai culture we would consider hostile, but in fact they are not. It is just the way of communication for different cultures. Most importantly, they have to have really good stamina as we are living abroad and away from our loved ones. We have to keep this in mind and manage ourselves and our time very well. Also, it’s important to be careful with your budget as we are living alone in another country which is not our own.