Chef Songpol Kittikhunwatchana began his career at the Grand Hyatt Erawan, Bangkok as an 'Event Trainee' after having graduated from Le Cordon Bleu school. He worked his way up from there and now Chef Songpol is the Grand Hyatt Erawan's Executive Sous Chef.
What are the main challenges for chefs these days and how do you overcome them?
Being a chef on a TV show is great for inspiring the new generation, but in real life, working as a chef is a different story. You have to work hard, follow the rules, repeat a daily routine and be creative all the time. You need to be able to explain the cause and effect of each given task, as well as having to lead by example.
An example of such advice might be "Using a combi oven (a multi-functional oven) to make steamed rice is very useful. Normally we use a rice cooker but using a combi oven gives different results. The rice is not compact or fluffy, and you are able to cook large amounts in a shorter amount of time."
A chef needs to understand the rice, equipment and water proportions.
I also find that you also have to be able to give good career advice.
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 and no. Special tools can increase efficiency and give me more time to multi task, but on the other hand, techniques and knowledge are the keys to operating those special tools. Both special tools and techniques must work in tandem.
How do you work with plant-based meat? Any challenges? What has the feedback been like? Do you think this trend will continue?
For the moment we are using plant-based meat from Green Monday. The products are OmniMeat, Beyond Burger and Beyond Sausage. OmniMeat is only being sold at You & Mee as part of the Thai à la carte street food menu. The Beyond Burger and Beyond Sausage are being sold at The Dining Room and Bar@494. The feedback from guests has been superb. Guests new to the products were surprised by the taste and texture, which are similar to real meat. These are the best alternative plant-based items. This trend will be continuous and will soon be part of our daily lives. Guests are more health conscious and environmentally aware.
What CSR initiatives have you undertaken?
We are collaborating with Thai SOS in implementing our food compost donation program. This donation system was implemented two months ago. The Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok is one of the first hotels to make donations of this nature to assist local farmers. The food compost donations are solely comprised of vegetables and cut-off fruit. Thai SOS joined up with local farmers to make fertilizer from these food compost donations. Apart from food compost, we also make food donations to a child center in conjunction with Thai SOS, as well as donate fish to pig farms and local suppliers. Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok's culinary team has one common goal to reduce food waste and landfill by 5% this year.
What is your advice for those looking to be a successful chef?
Discipline and hard work are the main keys to success, because the path is not really as beautiful as what might have been expected. After that the main criteria are to be unique, creative and able to think outside the box "If you want to shine then you have to be different".