Chef Paco's Sky-High Flavors in Bangkok

Chef Francisco Paco Ruano's back with new flavors in Ojo at The Standard, Bangkok Mahanakhon. We sat down with the globetrotter to talk street food, tattoos and Mexican cuisine.
What inspired you to take up cooking?

Cooking became more than just a hobby for me; it became a journey inspired by an important moment in my life. Growing up, I struggled with academics and found little motivation in traditional schooling. I often drifting aimlessly without purpose. It was during one of these moments of uncertainty that my father intervened with words that would change my path forever. He reminded me that I could achieve more, that life held more than just wandering around. Those words struck a chord within me, igniting a spark of purpose. I knew I had to find my passion, something that would not only fulfill me but also drive me towards a purposeful existence. Reflecting on my childhood memories, I recalled the warmth of my grandmother's kitchen, where I spent countless hours by her side, eagerly assisting in meal preparations. It was within those walls that I found solace, joy, and a deep-seated passion for cooking.

With my father's encouragement echoing in my mind, I made a conscious decision to immerse myself in the culinary world at the age of 14 where I first started my job working in a restaurant, in a kitchen.  Cooking became my thing, a realm where I could channel my creativity, express myself, and find fulfillment in every dish I crafted.

I want to make Ojo’s food stand out from other Mexican places here in Bangkok and make it approachable, energetic, and refreshing while representing different tastes from different regions of Mexico. Because Thailand might know Mexican food as “Tex-Mex” or being heavy, spicy, and fatty. I want to make people feel refresh, relax, and excited at the same time when experiencing my food.

Do you have a specific food philosophy?

To create dishes that not only satisfy hunger but also promote a sense of well-being. I see each meal as a canvas to share the story of my life's most cherished moments, infusing every bite with the essence of my past triumphs and joys. Each meal is like an immersive journey, carefully crafted to transcend mere sustenance and leave a lasting impression on those who indulge. Food, to me, is a powerful conduit for emotion, memory, and shared human connection.

Travel and food are inseparable, and the fusion of Mexican and Thai cuisine in Ojo takes guests on a journey. How do you strike that balance between cuisines?

Thai food and Mexican food has quite similar taste in some aspect. I only incorporate Thai ingredients into my food but avoiding making to a fusion food. I would add things that makes sense without changing the authenticity of my cuisine.

What do you look forward to the most when you visit Bangkok?

I used to have a Thai cookbook when I was a kid, and I would dream about Thailand. I still can’t believe that I am here. Who knew that twenty years later, I would be standing here at the highest restaurant in Bangkok! When I come to Bangkok, I love exploring new restaurants and bars in town but also visit my favorite ones. 

Let’s do a rapid-fire round. Give us your Bangkok favorites for…Hit the town and tell us about your favorite spots in Bangkok for…

Street food – I like to visit Or Tor Kor Market and Klong Teoy Market to see Bangkok’s freshest ingredients for my cooking inspiration. I also incorporate a lot of Thai ingredients in my dishes at Ojo. When we are there at the market, I get to try some street food as well. Also, China Town is a good place to try various Thai food with Chinese influence.

Relaxing and restoring – I love wining down at Jack’s Bar and watch the best sunset along Chao Phraya River. Not to mention the great Thai food there. The Larb Tord (Fried Larb Meatballs) and Yum Woonsen (Glass Noodles Spicy Salad) are my favorite.

Tattoos – I love tattoos! I often visit Common Ground Tattoo here in Bangkok. I even have an “Ojo” tattoo that I got done from here.

What’s coming up from Ojo that we should look out for?

During my last visit, I was working on the new dishes coming up soon, please look forward to that!


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