I find fresh and seasonal vegetables the most inspiring and exciting ingredients to work with. We cook with a decent amount of meat in the kitchen and I can't say that the Thai diet isn't without its fair share of protein, but when I cook for myself at home I usually keep it simple, and more often than not vegetarian. Anything with vibrancy and versatility is great. I particularly like vegetables that can be used in their entirety, like a broccoli where you use the florets for one preparation and the stem for another. I think we sometimes forget just how great vegetables are, and here in Britain we have an abundance of fantastic seasonal produce.
Who do you find inspiring within the cooking/hospitality industry and why?
Since returning to Britain from Thailand the biggest culinary influence on my life has to be Andy (Head Chef, Som Saa). Not only has Andy been transparent with his wealth of knowledge in Thai cuisine, he's also been a mentor towards me in the kitchen and taught me a lot about building and running a restaurant in a really short period. I've not been involved in Thai cookery for a huge amount of time but Andy installed a lot of faith and trust in me from the very beginning of our Som Saa residency at Climpson's Arch, and through that I've been given the support and freedom to express myself and grow as a chef.
What is your favourite cooking utensil?
As a Thai chef the simple answer is the pestle and mortar. Without this cooking tool in the kitchen we would be stranded and wouldn't be able to create many of the background pastes that are integral to the Thai cooking process. Otherwise I would say my chefs knife, couldn't live without it.
What age did you become interested in food? From a young age I've always been interested in food, it wasn’t until my early teens that I was able to experiment with different flavours. I've always loved food in all aspects, the growing, cooking and of course eating! I studied forensics in university, while I still have love and respect for the subject, my heart wasn’t in it any more. I finally decided to take the leap of faith and peruse my passion, which is food. Two years on, and it was the best decision I have ever made!
What ingredients are you interested in at the moment? It’s difficult to choose just one or even a few ingredients. I become inspired by anything that I come across. I think of all the possibilities and creative ways of making them shine. Despite being a pastry chef, one of my favourite ingredients would have to be thyme. My favourite way I've used it so far, would have to be a hot chocolate fondant with thyme ice cream; simply amazing.
What is your favourite cooking utensil? My favourite cooking utensil… defiantly silicon mats and my kitchen aid. It may not be a cooking utensil but I can’t forget my star nozzle. I have an unhealthy obsession with icing anything with a star nozzle.
Who encouraged you to become a chef?
My mother is a very good cook so I guess there was a lot of encouragement from a very early age. Also I was lucky enough to grow up near the incredible Ballymaloe Cookery School. Darina Allen & Rory O Connell were always a great source of inspiration and encouragement. Sally Clarke (who I worked with for nine years) has always been a huge inspiration.
What is your favourite spice/ingredient and why?
Tough question as I have so many. I generally love to use the really special olive oils at last minute. I like to use things like lemon rind and anchovies to season vegetables.
If you only have half an hour, what would you cook?
When I'm cooking at home, for myself, I love to eat really simple food. A couple of boiled eggs or Asparagus (when in season I hardly eat anything else!), with Olive Oil & Parmesan. The simpler the better.
What age did you become interested in food?
I first became interested in food when I was around 7 or 8. I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with my grandmother during the summer holidays, and used to try and taste everything she cooked, especially when she wasn’t looking.
When I wasn’t helping my grandmother in the kitchen I was with my grandfather outside in the fields where he grew all the vegetables for the family and kept animals. By working with him I learned about the importance of using seasonal ingredients and this has hugely influenced my style of cooking. My grandparents were always entertaining people. I think seeing how much they enjoyed growing the ingredients and cooking for others is why I became a chef.
Do you have a favourite spice or ingredient?
In truth, I probably don’t have any favourites. My vision of a meal or dish works sort of like this: wake up in the morning with a clear mind; go to the market and play with the colours, smells, textures available at the time I go, and try to create something different each time. The market is like an open recipe book for me, whenever I go there inspiration from my surroundings hits me every time. I love to combine land and sea elements in my dishes. That is why the starter I have chosen is a mirror of this.
If you just have half an hour, what would you cook?
In half an hour? Of course mussels. I would cook them with olive oil, garlic, tomato, white wine, lots of parsley, a sprig of thyme and I always have a bit of chorizo in my fridge so that would go in as well. Serve with good bread and a glass of fruity white wine.