This International Women’s Day, sisterhood is on the menu at The Standard, Hua Hin. Our two most senior female chefs—Praça’s Chef Surawadee ‘Fern’ Nooprai and Lido’s Chef Kanarat ‘Pook’ Sukyai, will be joining forces to celebrate divine femininity with a four-hands feast. We sat down with the duo to talk about their culinary journeys..
Why did you decide to become a chef?
Chef Pook: I graduated as an engineer and started working in a factory. But at that time, I didn't like factory life and I didn't get to spend time with my family. So, I decided to move on and started working in the hotel industry. Over the past few years, I have worked in many hotels in Thailand and abroad and am now the Chef de Cuisine at Lido At The Standard, Hua Hin. I feel lucky, I am given a lot of opportunities to showcase what I have learned from my experiences with full support here.
Chef Fern: My family has always been in the restaurant business. I have been in the kitchen since I was very young. I decided to make my childhood dream come true and study in the food industry before coming to work in the hotel. I love to cook food that makes people happy and fulfilled. The feeling I get when I see people enjoying my food is just so wholesome to me.
What is your favorite thing to cook for guests at The Standard, Hua Hin?
Chef Pook: It has to be the Beef Striploin Steak! I've spent months researching and developing the recipe, making the sauce from scratch and it has become very popular with guests. I'm very, very proud of it.
Chef Fern: Personally, I like to cook Gaeng Kua Bai Cha Ploo Pooh (deep-fried shrimp in betel leaf curry with lime). I did everything from developing the recipe to finding the right ingredients from local markets that blend well together and give it a smooth finish. This menu has received many positive comments from both Thai and international guests. They keep coming back for more.
As a chef, you cook a lot! Do you cook at home, or do you go out to eat?
Chef Pook: I don't cook at home because I like to try other restaurants in the area. It's exciting for me to see if I can find a restaurant that I like. That way, I can ask myself questions like: Why do I like it? Where is this taste coming from? I love Thai food, if you change something in it, just a little bit, you can pretty much discover something new from that dish. So, if I move to other areas of Thailand, I still like to try and learn about the food culture of each region. Now in Hua Hin, I am focusing more on cooking seafood with local ingredients that can also be applied to the restaurant menu.
Chef Fern: I do cook myself but I also go out because I live with my family. When I want to create a new menu, I'll cook for my family members first and then work my way to developing a real recipe. I do the same thing as Chef Pook, I buy from outside and adapt it with what I learn. I don't stop working when the clock says my shift is over, I want to make sure that everything I experience will be beneficial to my career.
We heard that the two of you curated the International Women’s Day menu yourself. Is there a story or secret recipe in these dishes?
Chef Pook: I'm currently working at Lido, which is an Italian restaurant, but my personal aptitude and preference has always been Thai food. Therefore, this menu will come out in a contemporary style, mixing Thai tastes with ingredients from the Italian side.
Chef Fern: We both want to present a novelty that combines the food I make at Praça and the Italian food that Chef Pook makes at Lido. The highlight will be how we combine seafood with signature flavors and local ingredients, including my mother's secret curry paste recipe that will be featured.
Kitchens have long been male dominated. As young female chefs, how do you view the future of food?
Chef Pook: My team is a combination of men and women. The most important thing is that today everyone's rights are equal, and we are encouraged to have an open mind when talking to each other. I feel that we are moving towards a path of equality where everyone is equal.
Chef Fern: At the end of the day, everyone wants to make it work, and we strive to give the best experience to guests. It's about the respect that I give to my team, and the respect they give back to me. I think it's also about the balance and the support that I get that makes me want to move forward instead of fixating on something that's not important.
What have you loved about your experience so far at The Standard, Hua Hin?
Chef Pook: The Standard, Hua Hin gives me a main stage to fully express myself. They listen to my opinions, ideas about the menu I want to create, and what we can do to make everything better in the restaurant. They also encourage me and the team to show our hidden talents to the outside world.
Chef Fern: I can say that I am proud to be here. To work at The Standard, Hua Hin and Praça, to have a team full of talented women. To work in a company that promotes self-love and self-expression, that gives us the opportunity to be our best. Truly anything but standard.
Check out how we’re celebrating International Women's Day this year right here.