International Chefs Day 2022: Meet 5 chefs who are changing the culinary landscape in Asia
From Chef Ton of Nusara and Chef Tam of Baan Tepa in Bangkok to Chef Matteo Ponti of Braci in Singapore, this day is a celebration of culinary excellence
This International Chefs Day (Oct 20), we celebrate the culinary profession and salute the chefs and all the restaurant workers around the world who work tirelessly to deliver great dining experiences day in and day out to guests.
With more countries now opening their borders to welcome back international tourists to their shores, it is time once again for our amazing culinary professionals to take the spotlight, showcase their best, and capture guests’ hearts one meal at a time.
Asia, with its diverse culinary traditions and eclectic food culture, is teeming with these culinary stars. But it is also a destination for upcoming chefs who want to contribute to the exciting gastronomy evolution in Asia.
Meet five of these chefs who are making their mark in elevating the culinary profession to new heights.
1. Chef Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn
Nusara – Bangkok, Thailand
The Bangkok culinary scene is not complete without this star chef: Chef Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn or simply called Chef Ton.
Trained in Eleven Madison Park and Jean Georges and many award-winning restaurants, Chef Ton came back to Thailand with a mission to put a spotlight on Thai cuisine and catapult it to a global stage. After establishing many celebrated restaurants in Thailand, he opened Nusara in homage to his grandmother who was his culinary inspiration. In 2022, Nusara landed no 10 in Asia’s Best Restaurant.
“To dream [of] having a restaurant in [the] Top 10 of #asias50best was a dream for me,” Chef Ton said on the Nusara restaurant Instagram account back in March of this year.
At Nusara, a 10-seater private fine-dining restaurant, Chef Ton spins his own delectable family dishes and his grandmother’s home-cooked meals into a 12-course tasting menu that tastes modern and yet still uniquely and familiarly Thai.
Aside from running his restaurants, Chef Ton continues to promote Thai culinary cuisine to new chefs and culinary enthusiasts. He is imparting his signature dishes and tips on restaurant management on Ikonclass, a Thai online platform, starting this month.
2. Chef Chudaree “Tam” Debhakam
Baan Tepa - Bangkok, Thailand
Just like Chef “Ton, Chef “Tam” is another recognizable face in Thai cuisine, especially after winning Top Chef Thailand Season 1. But before she embarked on this TV competition, Chef Tam was already armed with a culinary education and experience similar to the likes of Chef Ton. She also trained in Jean Georges, Eleven Madison, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
At Blue Hills, she was immersed in Chef Dan Barber's farm-to-table philosophy. It has become her source of inspiration when she opened her own restaurant and culinary space Baan Tepa, out of her grandmother’s home in Bangkok, where Chef Tam and her team now grow their own vegetables and other ingredients.
Under Chef Tam, Baan Tepa has been consistently featured in Asia’s 50 best: in 2021 it was ranked 79th and then 86th this year.
Forever passionate about sustainability, Chef Tam continues to take initiative to ensure that Baan Tepa stays the course.
“It is truly a team effort to run the restaurant more sustainably from the kitchen to the front and back of house team. We need more knowledge and understanding of why it is important to be mindful of the waste that we generate as a restaurant,” Chef Tam on her personal Instagram account.
3. Chef Matteo Ponti
Braci – Singapore
Just in his 30s, Chef Matteo Ponti is the head chef of one Michelin-starred Italian restaurant Braci, which is part of Beppe DeVito's string of restaurants under il lido Group.
Braci isn’t your typical Italian restaurant. It is ambitious in its style of Italian cooking called grigliata – which means barbecue Italian style. This all fits the style of Chef Matteo, whose family tradition growing up was having a big family barbecue over Easter.
“Barbecue is a huge part of Italian culture. It's not one of the things Italians are widely famous for, but it's a very common way of cooking during spring,” he told Michelin.com last February.
But in Braci's forward-thinking approach, they combine Italy's primitive barbecue style on a Josper oven and a Japanese shichirin grill, while Chef Matteo cooks up dishes that are both modern and rustic, with a reverence for the seasonality of ingredients and the four seasons just like in his hometown in Northern Italy.
This Autumn, Chef Matteo will be serving a 7-course meal cooked over fire inspired by his own personal experiences growing up in Italy.
RELATED: Singapore retains crown as Southeast Asia's food capital
4. Chef Fumio Suzuki
Zuicho Kappo, Hong Kong
His culinary path was well-paved even before Chef Fumio Suzuki knew he wanted to become a chef. While his family ran a kappo restaurant when he was young, it wasn't until he was in the university that he started to become more involved in the family business. Years after working with his father, he struck out on his own and joined the famed kaiseiki restaurant Kitaohji where he developed his career from junior chef to head chef. Later on, he joined Ginza Kudo, one of the most popular restaurants in the Ginza area in Tokyo, where he stayed for five years.
But Chef Fumio's career will take him eventually out of Tokyo. Chef Fumio was offered to head Zuicho Kappo, which serves Japanese high-end and refined kappo cuisine to the Hong Kong audience. A year after its opening, Zuicho Kappo earned a Michelin star.
"I put my focus on my craft, menu, and customers. If customers leave the restaurant happy with the meal and experience, chances are the MICHELIN Guide will also recognize what I do," Chef Fumio told Michelin.com in 2021.
5. Chef Hiroyasu Kawate
Florilège – Tokyo, Japan
Chef Hiroyasu Kawate describes himself as a "lifelong ambassador of sustainability", and it is evident in the way he runs his award-winning French-Japanese restaurant named Florilège which he opened in 2009 after working in France in the three-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Jardine des Sens.
At Florilège, Chef Hiroyasu Kawate honors ingredients – even ingredients or produce that's normally thrown away – and creates new dishes for a multi-course tasting menu that is a feast for the senses. An example of this is Chef Hiroyasu's signature dish called "Sustainability beef", which has been sourced from mature cows that could have been just discarded.
"Food sustainability is a goal we are working towards, with the focus on food loss," Chef Hiroyasu told Michelin.com.
This sustainable vision helped Chef Hiroyasu steer Florilège to its rightful place in the culinary world. In 2022, it was awarded again two Michelin stars and also ranked no. 30 in the World's 50 Best restaurants.
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