Originally from Eindhoven, Netherlands Chef Rick Dingen brings with him his experience from cooking in various restaurants in his home country including restaurants like La Rive at the Intercontinental Amsterdam and the Michelin-starred De Heer Kocken. He also worked as Chef de Partie at the celebrated Inter Scaldes, which was awarded three Michelin Stars and named the best restaurant in the Netherlands.
In Thailand he has worked at Bangkok's renowned Savelberg restaurant, which was awarded a Michelin Star while he was working there as Chef de Cuisine. After Savelberg, he joined Haoma for a brief time as Chef de Cuisine, and now he brings his culinary Midas touch as Chef de Cuisine at Anantara's designer steakhouse 'Madison'.
Why did you decide to become a chef?
I love to make people happy. I like to reminisce of the time when I used to still live with my parents in the Netherlands. My Mom would always cook for the whole family. She would start cooking in the afternoon and keep going until around 6 o'clock. She made the family happy simply by cooking. I followed her example, learning from what she did. Step by step I modelled what I did on her, trying to do exactly what she did - that is, make my family happy. The first time I had to cook for them was not easy. The food was too salty, too soft and a whole bunch of other 'too's'. That made me sad. After this first experience, my mom stepped in and showed me exactly how and what the family actually liked to eat. After that I found myself cooking all the time after school. They finally enjoyed dinner and I was getting better and better.
There are a lot of chefs at Anantara Siam and as a saying goes 'Too many chefs (can) spoil the broth' - How do you work with other chefs? What do you learn from them?
What I really like about working in a big hotel like Anantara Siam Bangkok is that there are many chefs from different backgrounds and everyone is different. You can learn from everyone. They all have different ideas about creating a menu and organizing the kitchen. We also do a lot of guest chef promotions that give me inspiration and ideas. It allows me to test new products in order to create new menus and be creative about it.
What's most challenging about being a chef today?
There are more and more restaurants and hotels every day. It is important that you keep up to date of what is going on in your industry. You need to try to stand out from the rest in your city or country. You need to create new promotions or events and be sharp all the time. If you're not on top of your game, it might be too late.
Do you incorporate any kind of CSR initiatives in your kitchen? What are they? What impact does it make?
I really like it to support the local market. I talk with the local suppliers about what they can do for us. More than 80 percent of our products can be sourced locally. We work with a lot of farms from Chiangmai and other places in the North of Thailand as well as sustainable fish farms from Prachuap khiri khan, and well as organic poultry from Klong Phai farm in Khao Yai. These kinds of suppliers are not always easy to find, but it is a challenge that I like as it makes me continue to search more and more and learn new things. For me it’s easy to order a nice product from Europe and great a dish out of it, but it's a whole new challenge to go and look for new products and then make new dishes out of what you find. It of course takes a bit longer but in the end you are supporting the local market and you are actively thinking much more about the dish and the history surrounding you.
When it comes to cooking, what's more important - technique, ingredients, or creativity?
It all starts with fresh ingredients. For me I like to cook with a maximum of three or four textures or flavors in one dish.
Those three to four flavors or textures are then cooked in perfection. I don't like to add too many items on one plate - it will only confuse diners. We need to show our diners what our products are. For me it is also important to communicate the story behind the dish. That's why I really like to use local ingredients from Thailand. Four years ago when I arrived in Thailand I traveled from north to south and learnt all about the flavors of Thailand. You can get more than you think - you only need to look for it.