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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

  1. Heart & Halo

    July 10, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Curry & Chai
    ON THE GLOBE
    Byron Bay, Australia
    ON THE TEAM
    Tusta, Head Chef at Heart & Halo

    On a bright and sunny Byron Bay day we sat down with Tusta, head chef of Heart & Halo, a hare-krishna inspired restaurant. His tangy home brewed chai awakened our senses (and tastebuds) and the beautiful curry really did remind us of family cookin’. It was hearty, wholesome, and downright delicious. We’ll let the photos, his description, and the interview speak for themselves.

    It’s basic human nature to look after each other.

    “Heart & Halo offers a wide variety of global vegetarian dishes with distinct Indian Ayurvedic influences. Tusta, the head chef brings over 20 years of experience and adds his own flavour and style to all meals he prepares. Tusta has travelled to many places of the world but it is his love of India that has influenced his cooking the most. All meals are vegetarian and will tempt even the most fussiest of eaters.
    Heart & Halo sources only the freshest spices, beans and grains to ensure the fullest of flavour. Only healthy oils are used for cooking and Himalayan salt is used to help improve your wellbeing.

    The best local & organic produce is used when and where ever possible to make our fabulous vegetarian meals.

    Heart & Halo offers an amazing range of great value Curries, Vegetable Baked Dishes, Hearty Lentil and Vegie Soups, Rice, Bean and Grain Dishes, the freshest salads and a selection of mouth watering drinks, sweets and snacks.

    All that we prepare and offer contains only the best ingredients including Himalayan Salt. With 84 trace minerals, your body will benefit even long after your meal is complete.

    Heart & Halo only uses oils that are good for you, not the common oils that may leave carcinogenic residue in your body.

    But above all, Heart & Halo food is prepared and served with LOVE to benefit you and our beautiful community.”

    They are always wholesome foods that remind you of home.

    Why did you decide to open a restaurant here in Byron Bay?
    I realised that local people want down to earth, quality food. There are a lot of health shops offering organic produce but they tend to be very expensive. I opened Heart & Halo to offer the local people exactly that but at affordable prices.

    Could you name some of the produce that you use here at Heart & Halo?
    We use organic Himalayan salt and cold press oils to improve my customers well-being.

    Why do you think it’s so important to use organic produce?
    It’s basic human nature to look after each other, and by growing foods organically, it’s simply looking after something that looks after us. It’s really nurturing through food. Festivals and celebrations are based around feasts and sharing, food is so important to so many cultures so it’s only right that we respect it.

    Are you vegetarian?
    Yes, by the time I was 17 or 18 I was over meat. I had worked in cafes and restaurants in Sydney and was sick of the smell, oil, and fat. There’s a huge disconnection between people and meat these days. They only see it in cellophane.

    What inspired you to open Heart & Halo?
    The idea came together after I had travelled. I’m a believer in indigenous cooking and the way it’s made with love. They are always wholesome foods that remind you of home. Backpackers come here and say that ‘it tastes like home’, which is great. I loved how diverse the diets were in India. How they live is just amazing! Too many people live on land that’s half the size of Australia, and they manage it in harmony. I believe it’s because they are all working for the same reason, whether it be a group or family unit. I was looking for something real to do, so naturally I thought of feeding people.

    So you teamed your beliefs and travel discoveries together to create Heart & Halo?
    It’s not about me, it’s about the food. There’s no ego here, not like MasterChef! I didn’t create it, I’m just passing the message on through the love and appreciation of food. I’m so thankful of the opportunity I have been given to spread the love through the food I serve.

    For more information on Heart & Halo, please see:

    Heart & Halo Good Food Bar

    Shop 4/14 Middleton Street
    (Corner of Byron Street & Middleton Streets – underneath the Budget Motel)
    Byron Bay NSW 2481

    Ph: 02 6685 6685

    Email: love@heartandhalo.com

    Special thanks to Tusta & Christie for making this happen.

    
    

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  2. Byron Bay Chilli Co.

    July 1, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Byron Bay Chilli Sauce on OzyMex Tacos, Nachos, & Burritos
    ON THE GLOBE
    Byron Bay, Australia
    ON THE TEAM
    John Boland, Co-Founder of Byron Bay Chilli Co. & OzyMex Restaurant


    If you grow chillies you realize that the sunnier the season or the sunnier the place where you plant them, the hotter the chilli. It’s converting sunlight in to heat – like a little packet of sun.


    John “The Chilli Dude” Boland moved from California to Australia many moons ago and, together with his wife Lynne, helped pioneer a movement in Australia for chilli sauce and Mexican food. He generously invited us to come to his OzyMex shop to sample his line of epic sauces (our favorites were Fiery Coconut and Smokin’ Mango) on fresh home-made tortilla chips, tacos, quesadillas and a big heapin’ burrito. These classic culinary “hole-in-the-wall” delights reminded me of the traditional Mexican food from my hometown of Los Angeles, with a twist of that California and Australian love for fresh, healthy ingredients.

    His infectious energy and positive vibes spill over into everything he does–the sauces and food are scrumptious to say the least and the fact that he loves what he does after so many years makes us love his products that much more.

    He range of sauces range from mild and sweet to tangy and burnin’ hot. He’s a strong believer in being able to taste the ingredients of the sauce and not just a feeling of “HOT HOT HOT!”

    We loved hearing his story and we think you will too.

    Do you have any advice for anybody wanting to get into the sauce business?
    Don’t give up your day job. No, but seriously, there’s been an awful
    lot of things done in the last ten years so you have to try! There’s a
    great show in Albuquerque, New Mexico called The Fiery Foods Show and it’s a great place to meet people in the industry. Everyone is there. We’ve been a whole bunch of times.
    It’s a good starting point. You could meet with a fellow called Dave
    DeWitt, he’s the Pope of Peppers and runs the show. You just talk to
    people. It depends whether you want it to be a niche product or a main
    stream product. So long as you have a plan for your sauce.

    Did you have a plan for your sauce?
    We didn’t really know what we were doing, we just started making
    sauce. Then all of a sudden we get a call from this supermarket, so we
    were faced with the prospect of being in the shops. We had to make a
    sauce that was fairly competitive price-wise, ours is premium but
    we’re still in the mass market, not the niche market. I think in
    Australia it’s harder to be in the niche market because there are not as
    many delis – there just isn’t as much of anything. There’s fewer
    people and the distances between them are greater.

    What brought you from California to Byron Bay?
    My Mother was Australian, I came down here to meet my Grandmother and
    just loved it! All of my cousins suggested that I go to Byron Bay,
    saying that it was the top spot. Twenty-five years ago there was a real estate
    agent right across the street, I walked in there and she spent the
    whole day looking around at places and ended up buying a little plot
    in the hills. I grew up in California in the 50′s and 60′s and in many
    ways saw the best times there. Byron Bay felt like that to me. It’s
    getting busier all the time, but not too busy. The beach lifestyle was
    too attractive, plus our kids were young enough to bring over and had
    no choice! [Laughs]

    How did it develop in to the business it is today?
    We saw an opportunity at a local food market to open a Mexican food
    stall. That’s how we got started.

    Are there other Mexican restaurants in Byron Bay?
    Byron Bay had the first Mexican restaurant in Australia, ‘Mexican
    Mick’s’ it was called. It was started by an Englishman. So for a long
    time that was here and then he moved away.


    We’re hoping that a lot more
    people get to try our chilli sauce.

    Where do you make the sauces?
    We have a contract bottler which is up near the Gold Coast, about an
    hours drive away. We looked at having our own factory here but it was
    impossible; Not only too expensive, but the council limitations
    brought all sorts of issues to have a building like that here. You’ll
    find that so many sauces have contract packers.

    How much does the factory make over there, is there a certain number
    of bottles per day?

    They are made to order. We sell about 50 tons a year. Last time I looked
    that’s what it was anyway. Still small but not real small. We get
    about 2 tons made at a time.

    Did you expect Byron Bay Chilli Company to get as big as it has done?
    No, I call it an accidental business. We’re hoping that a lot more
    people get to try our chilli sauce.

    Us too, they’re delicious!
    A few of them are so different that I reckon they should be in every
    Whole Foods supermarket. There’s a place in Texas that would love to
    have our sauces but we don’t have an importer.

    For me there’s a few rules of food. Number one is that the first
    bite is taken with your eyes.

    What’s in store for the next few years for Byron Bay Chilli Company?
    We’re working with people to start a series of these Ozy-Mex stores. The good
    thing about this kind of thing [the hole in the wall shop] is that
    it’s affordable. People can pop in and buy something tasty to eat.
    What we like about this arrangement is that people get to see their
    food made so you get to know exactly what’s going in to it. I was
    inspired by one of my favorite places, I grew up very close to Tijuana on the Mexican border. We used to travel around, mainly
    for the cheap beer. There was a little hole in the wall place and in
    order to get in you had to lift the bench up and squeeze in, it was
    big enough for one person. The owner would make tacos and things while
    you waited on the side walk. I was inspired by that idea – literally a
    hole in the wall. It wasn’t so much about going to sit down and
    spending $50 to eat, it was just something for the people.

    With a hole in the wall style place you’re still close to your vision
    and closer to your customers. When restaurants get too big it becomes
    very impersonal. Maybe they lose sight of the vision a little bit…

    Well, for me there’s a few rules of food. Number one is that the first bite is taken with your eyes. There’s also a feeling that a person
    gives off, you know, the very best food is always served by mom,
    there’s love there. In some small way that’s what we try to convey
    here, even when we’re busy we still try to make people feel like
    they’re not a hassle to us – we’re here to feed them. Then, of course
    once it’s in your mouth it’s got to be good too! It should be
    reasonably healthy, and the ingredients should be ethical.

    Are chillies good for your health?
    Absolutely! I certainly reckon they are and there’s a lot of
    literature about it. They’re a digestive aid, a circulatory aid, they
    make your food taste good, and they make you happy. There’s a lot of
    vitamins in chillies. Chilli is an interesting fruit. Most people
    don’t realize this but it came to Asia after the explorers went to the
    Americas. There were no chillies in Asia prior to that time, so in the
    past 500 years these cultures have totally absorbed the chilli. To me
    it’s packed with sunlight. If you grow chillies you realize that the
    sunnier the season or the sunnier the place where you plant them, the
    hotter the chilli. It’s converting sunlight in to heat – like a little
    packet of sun.

    You make your own corn chips too?
    Yes. We make 10 products in total. We’re looking at a few other
    things, for example combining some of our sauces with other things to
    create new flavors. There’s a bunch of things we hope to do in the
    future. I think we’ve captured a good range of chilli sauces and added
    our own signature to them.

    We love your bottle labels. What inspired them?
    It’s a little bit of paradise. It’s fun and clean.

    Which sauce is your favorite?
    I probably reach for the hottest one these days. I really like it on
    so many things, like poached eggs. I don’t have a favorite child, I
    like them all. Sweet chilli, I reach for that a lot. It just depends
    what I’m eating.

    Do you have a sauce with every meal?
    I’ve always got a basket with one of each sauce in it. We just leave it out.

    Where can people living outside of Australia buy your sauces?
    Come to Byron Bay! We do sell online but postage is very expensive.

    Huge thanks to John for this interview and generosity. For more information and recipes to use his delicious sauces, check out:

    http://www.byronbaychilli.com/

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  3. Life’s Simple On The Flower Farm

    June 21, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE CANVAS 
    Flower Farming
    ON THE GLOBE
    Cradoc, Tasmania, Australia
    ON THE TEAM
    Sam Calvert

    You don’t have to have a degree to succeed so long as you put the effort in and make it work.

    For three weeks, we had the extreme pleasure of living on the farm in Tasmania with our dear friend from Leeds University, graphic designer Jess Nicholls and her boyfriend, flower farmer Sam Calvert. If we’re being totally honest, we spent a lot more time playing with Sally “Fish” Fisher the sheepdog, drinking copious amounts of latte round the fire, and sampling culinary delights around this foodie island than we did working. But we did spend a couple days creating bunches and bouquets for Mother’s Day and our time there was a one-of-a-kind experience we’ll never forget.

    As a huge computer nerd and internet entrepreneur, I’m on my computer almost all the time (well, when I’m not traveling that is!) and though I love it and don’t want to change, it was refreshing to see and experience this lifestyle. It’s hard work but its straightforward, and when the weather’s good, you’re outside with the dirt and the wind and the sun really experiencing the beauty of the place. During winter, you zone out and get into the pattern of creating bunches, listening to Triple J, Australia’s unbelievably good radio station, and having a ton of laughs with the rest of the farm hands. You’re up and at it at 8am, no need to shower, dress fancy or wear makeup, just head out the front door and into the farm shed out back. Warm up with a hot cup of tea and a fresh buttered crumpet every few hours and the work day ends at 4:30. It’s a great space to rest your mind and work your body. A couple of the workers came to do just that after experiencing a burnout in more mentally challenging working conditions, such as nursing and teaching.

     

    What’s the history of the Bloomin Good Flowers farm?
    Dad was a forester so he spent a lot of time away from home. Mum was a dental nurse so she was out of the house a lot too. They both wanted to do something closer to home. They researched some options before recognizing a gap in the flower market. Dad grew trees and Mum loved gardening so it ‘bloomed’ from there. This must have been about 23 years ago now.

    So, in the beginning they both worked and ran the farm on the side?
    Yes, until they decided to expand, that’s when Mum quit Dental Nursing. Dad never completely quit: he still does his forestry.

    What’s your favorite part of running the flower farm?
    The outdoors, being out in the open air is good. I get to work to my own hours sometimes. It’s really satisfying growing something from nothing and seeing the end product. I find it really rewarding.

    Is this what you wanted to do when you were little?
    Growing up on the farm I knew I would always have the opportunity to do this. When your family has a business, a kid can feel forced in to it but for me it was the opposite. If anything my parents made sure that I explored other avenues rather than going straight from school into working on the farm. I didn’t know what I wanted to do until well after I left school. I thought that I wanted to get involved in the hospitality industry, but after a couple of years I realised that it wasn’t for me, so came back to the farm.

    Are you known locally as ‘Sam the Flower Man’?
    No, just Sam. Although most people know me as Calv.

    Does running a flower farm compromise your masculinity?
    When I was little I used to get teased quite a bit about the farm, kids can be cruel! Now everyone appreciates it.

    Did you bring your teachers flowers in school?
    No.

    How about girlfriends?
    Yeah, a bit of that went on.

    Which of your flowers are the bestsellers?
    The most popular would have to be tulips or lilies. We grow tulips for 8 months of the year. You are able to control them making them easy to force and manipulate. I can know to the day when tulips are going to be ready to pick, whereas lilies can range.

    It has taught me that if you’re willing to put the time and effort in, you can achieve anything.

    Do you feel that forcing flower growth out of season might be ethically wrong?
    No. It’s all about trying to produce flowers out of season. Customers can’t get access to them out of their natural season so the demand becomes higher. There are a lot of farms that grow flowers in their natural season as they don’t have the facilities to force the growth. The process of freezing the bulbs and placing them in hot houses is known as ‘vernalization’.

    Is there a lot of competition in the flower farm business?
    There’s only us and one other farm in Tasmania that produces flowers out of season.

    Can you see yourself doing this forever?
    I guess so. I enjoy it but it’s very hard work. It’s a 24/7 job so it can take its toll but if all goes well, I’d like to think that I would carry on for a while yet.

    I love Tassie! I think it’s the lifestyle and people, it’s very relaxed. We’ve got the beaches, mountains, national parks, the weather – it’s all of Australia’s best bits in one state.

    Do you hope that the farm continues to be passed down through the family?
    That would be great! At the moment though it’s tough in all industries due to the global crisis. If I can keep the farm successful long enough to be able to pass it down, that would be ideal.

    What does it take to run a successful flower farm?
    Hard work. Long hours. I’ve found that you need a good crew, you can’t do this by yourself. You also need a lot of luck as there’s so many little things that could go wrong.

    Why should customers buy your flowers over anyone else’s?
    A lot of flowers these days aren’t fresh. At florists or supermarkets the time from picking to being sold could be anything from 10 to 14 days. Here you know they’re fresh. We guarantee them so if people aren’t happy, we offer to replace them. Over the years we’ve built up a good customer base, they know ours are the freshest and tend to last the longest.

    Do you think there will always be a demand for fresh flowers?
    I like to think so. There will always be Mothers Day, Valentines Day, etc. As much as people like to buy other things for these occasions, there will always be a demand for flowers. Weddings and funerals will always happen, I doubt flowers will ever truly be replaced.

    Have you had to make many sacrifices for the farm?
    Well, there’s no such thing as a day off. I don’t get any of the public holidays off. It always seems like I’m at work so I feel like I sacrifice a lot of my personal life. I’m passionate about sport but can’t always find the time to play. It’s a lifestyle choice. You have to be prepared to give up what other people working in 9-5 jobs might take for granted, like weekends and public holidays. There’s always something on the farm that could or does go wrong, so you’re always at work. Flowers don’t know when it’s Christmas Day, I haven’t had one of those for about 8 years!

    If you want to start a small business you’ve got to be willing to go through the ups and downs. You’ve got to be passionate about the business too. If you don’t enjoy it you don’t put the effort in, so you won’t get anything out of it.

    Have the flowers taught you anything?
    I was self taught. I had no qualifications in horticulture or agriculture. They’ve taught me that if you’re willing to put the time and effort in, you can achieve anything. You don’t have to have a degree to succeed so long as you put the effort in and make it work.

    What’s the craziest thing that’s happened on the farm?
    A few things I guess. A while ago we had the drug helicopters land here looking to do a drugs bust. They did searches for Marijuana in the hot houses. There’s been a few funny injuries too. I remember when Dad and Ben were building the hot houses, Dad nailed his hand to the wood. Looking back that was pretty funny.

    Are you running the business side of things as well as the farm?
    I do the day to day processes. The management side is also run by me but my Dad oversees it and gives me ideas. So I guess I’m running it, yeah, but with a bit of guidance.

    Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start a business?
    If you want to start a small business you’ve got to be willing to go through the ups and downs. You’ve got to be passionate about the business too. If you don’t enjoy it you don’t put the effort in, so you won’t get anything out of it.

    Who has been the most inspirational character in your life so far?
    Denzel Washington.

    What is it about Denzel that you admire?
    His talent. He was one of the first African American actors to win an Academy Award too, he’s a pioneer! I wouldn’t be half the man I am today without Denzel or Michael Bolton.

    Have you got a preferred song that you like to listen to whilst bunching a bouquet?
    Put on anything old school, up-beat and 80′s and I’ll be happy!

    What hearty food do you eat daily to make sure you don’t go hungry whilst working?
    It depends on the season. In winter I like a good pie or noodles – anything hot. In summer I tend to eat a lot of salad rolls.

    Could you please explain what the job involves for anyone wanting to work on the farm whilst in Australia?
    Our farm is great for travellers wanting to get visas. The time of year to apply would be October to March/April. It’s dirty work, so you have to be prepared for that. We’re always on the lookout for keen people wanting to help out.

    What makes a perfect employee here on the farm?
    You have to have common sense and a lot of it! It helps if you’re practical and the outdoorsy type, it’s a dirty job.

    What do you think makes the Cradoc area and Tasmania in general so special?
    I love Tassie! I think it’s the lifestyle and people, it’s very relaxed. We’ve got the beaches, mountains, national parks, the weather – it’s all of Australia’s best bits in one state. For some reason it’s got a bad reputation so people stay away but it’s got so much to offer.

    If you’re in the area, Bloomin’ Good have a flower stall at the Salamanca Market (7am-3pm).
    You’ll find them opposite the Republic Café on the corner of Montpellier Street.

    http://www.bloomingoodflowers.com/

    Tel: + 61 (0) 439 681 654
    Email: bloomingoodflowers@hotmail.com

    If you like this post and The Eat Team, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter for updates.

     


  4. Eat Meet: Chef Michael Elfwing at Hilton Kuala Lumpur

    May 14, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Smoking Allowed, Seafood Soup, LERØY Salmon Trout, Chocolate Tart “Michel Chaudon”
    ON THE GLOBE
    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    ON THE TEAM
    Master Chef Michael Elfwing

    I’m quite disciplined with myself and what I want, if there’s something that I want, I make it happen.  You just have to stay focused.

     


    Chef Elfwing is the head chef at Senses Restaurant at Hilton Kuala Lumpur. Originally from Sweden, he studied the culinary arts in Australia from age 16 after being inspired by his father, who was also an international chef.  He’s worked with the legendary Chiong Liew at Grange in Adelaide, and at the world-famous Fat Duck restaurant with Heston Blumenthal, among others.  He’s published his own cookbook, which features his gorgeous photography.  His Senses restaurant has won several awards including the prestigious 5-Star Diamond Awards as one of the Best Restaurants in the World and Hospitality Asia Award for Best Western Cuisine.

    But he’s so much more than a pile of fancy titles and accolades.  He’s warm, innovative, passionate, creative and inspiring to say the least.  He’s humble about his extraordinary feats and talents, and willing to admit there’s always more to learn.  He has an infectious energy and he continues to work hard to earn the fruits of his labor.  Tasting his culinary creations assured me of that.  He was kind enough to let me interview him, snap some photos, and prepare some of his classic dishes for me.

    Needless to say, I was blown away by Chef Eflwing’s food as well as his character.

     

    ~ What I Ate  ~

     

    Smoking Allowed………..  

    Table smoked Tasmanian ocean trout, Nordic deep sea shrimp with sour cream & chives

    Unbelievable texture, melt-in-your-mouth trout.  The presentation is so unique–watching the smoke seep out as the jar is opened, smelling the soft wood chip smoke as it makes its way towards you, and the unbeatable taste.. top-notch combination.  Truly delights your Senses. 

    Seafood Soup  

    Seared cod, slipper lobster, Scottish diver scallop, saffron potato & roast roma tomatoes

    Another brilliant presentation–first you’re served the cod, lobster, scallop and potato so you really see what’s in the soup.  Then they pour the soup over it all, piping hot, as the aroma fills your nose.  A perfect, hearty soup for winter.

    LERØY Salmon Trout

    Organic salmon trout from the pristine fjords of Norway served with a sea garnish of edible sand, fresh clams & Dutch grey shrimp, smoked potato purée

    Another fantastic presentation.  Bursting with fresh ocean flavor.  ”Edible sand” concoction unlike anything I’ve seen or tasted, paired perfectly with the potato purée.  A sophisticated harmony of delights from the sea.

     

    Chocolate Tart “Michel Chaudon”  

    Exclusive to Senses by Parisian chocolatier Michel Chaudon.

    This handmade chocolate simply transformed into a light & warm  chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream

    Extremely innovative dish inspired by a larger traditional tart.  Smooth, silken molten chocolate and creamy light ice cream.  A classic.

     

     

     

     

    How long have you been living in Malaysia and working at Senses inside Hilton Kuala Lumpur?

    Eight years, it was the 1st of July, 2004 that I started here.  I’m Swedish but I worked 7 years in Australia before coming here.  I worked in Adalaide before with Chiong Liew, and Kuala Lumpur wanted to “bring papa home” because he’s Malaysian, so they asked me and Kelly Brennan to open and run Senses, based on legendary KL chef Chiong Liew‘s themes.  It has changed a lot since opening, because of the clientele: people go to Chiong Liew’s personal restaurant to eat Chiong Liew’s food: he cooks about 20 dishes and it has been that way for 10 years.

    But here, the Malaysians request new meals.  You have to listen to your customers.  That was something I had to learn, I came from the very stubborn, determined Chiong Liew mentality because I learned from him, that “this is my dish, nothing can change.”  The Malaysians are very loyal in that they like coming back to a place, but they don’t want the same thing time and again–they want different dishes from the same chef.  We might think we know how things work based on previous experince, but its always changing.

     

    What are your favorite ways to integrate aspects of local Malaysian food or culture into your creations?

    I think I learned a lot about Malaysian food, and its integration of Malay, Chinese, Indian aspects while working with Chiong Liew in Australia.  We opened Senses with the concept to cook gourmet Malysian food, but the locals were saying, “I don’t need you to cook shark fin or bok choi for me here, I can go to the local Chinese restaruant for that.”  We had all these beautiful lychees and mangosteens, and they’re saying, “I’ll just get that at my corner market, can you please give me some rhubarb? Something special from your culture?”

    Smoking Allowed, my signature dish–the one served in a smoke-filled jar, is certainly Scandinavian, but it uses ocean trout from Australia.  I wouldn’t be allowed to use a Norwegian salmon for this because of the texture and fat content, I had to test and try to find the right fish.  So that’s why I integrate different foods from different places, to get the best ingredients from where they are in the world.  I buy local, but I don’t buy the typical Asian vegetables.  My fish is imported from Japan or Australia, but a lot of this is because of customer demand, because they want something special, something they cannot find on the streets.

    Cheong’s food is very modern Malaysian: if you’re Malaysian, you might understand where his food is coming from, but you might not like it because it’s not prepared in the traditional ways.  The locals are very protective about how a laksa should be, but every single person makes it a different way.

    My food is a bit more straightforward, it might be refined, but the flavors are very recognizable and familiar.

     

     

    What do you eat when you’re not at work?

    I tend to cook at home on my day off.. I lock myself in my home on my days off.  It’s taken me years to be this relaxed.  Some chefs are all over the place, every two years a new place.

     

    What will you do after you’re finished at Senses?

    Right now Senses and the Hilton here is my plan and my life.  We’re going to renovate, we’re actually going to have a new restaurant and new bar.. this is a hotel that doesn’t stand still.  We’re going to move more towards a western, European restaurant.  When I want to leave again, I will move back to Australia.  I have citizenship there as well.

     

     I never planned to stay this long but I like it and I’m happy so.. why move?

     

    We met an Executive Chef in Thailand, and he is in charge of managing the chefs but no longer cooks.  Are you cooking still?

    Yes,  we have 160 chefs and 8 outlets at this hotel, so we have an executive chef here too–but I said to myself.. I don’t want that job, I don’t want 220 headaches.  I am spoiled, lucky even, that I am just one head chef in one restauarant.  I never planned to stay this long but I like it and I’m happy so.. why move?

     

    Was it your dream to become a chef when you were younger?

    Yes, I would say.  I’ve always loved reptiles and fish, so I was interested in marine biology and the like, but cooking was more instantly gratifying and when I was 15, 16 it seemed like an easier choice to study cooking than marine biology.  Since I was young, my  father was an international chef, and I would visit him wherever he was and it was always a kind of holiday to see him cooking on those big cruise ships.  My dad was working as a chef at Carnival cruise ships company when Hurricane Katrina hit.  The company offered to house people for free but they had a huge problem with criminals on board, so he quit and moved to Australia.  I visited him there, just thinking it was a vacation, and I was wowed by all the sunshine.. endless sunshine!  So it made me think, maybe I should study here, so I studied at culinary school there from age 16.  Most of my inspiration came form seeing my dad, working all over the world, traveling.  It all started from there.

     

    I saw you featured on Molecular Gastronomy, can you explain what molecular gastronomy is and how you use it?

    Your basic french training is always in the background in your mind as a chef.  My food, in terms of molecular, is definitely.. well, I spent a month at the Fat Duck with the legendary Heston Blumenthal, and that showed a side of molecular gastronomy that really appealed to me.  Heston’s style is more about time and temperature, and he is very precise with this.  You’re not adding foreign ingredients for a texture that’s not there–the Spanish chefs change a lot of texture: you have a familiar flavor but the texture is strange.  I would love to go and eat it, but it’s not the kind that I enjoy cooking.  Smoking Allowed is vacuum cooking, which is old-fashioned already, but its very precise, and so very fool-proof, so you get a very consistent product every time you do it.  But we haven’t made a trout into a shaving foam texture, so it’s still a fish.  The edible sensibilities comes form my inspiration from Heston.

     

    Who are some of the coolest people you met here?

    Mel Gibson, Louis Hamiltion (he had two-well done tenderloins, french fries and heinz tomato ketchup) because we have the Formula 1 races.  Sebastian Vettel who won Formula 1 for the past two years, he comes every year, I was lucky enough to give him one of my books.

     

    Have you ever had any failures that you felt you could not overcome?

    What can I say.. cooking is very personal, because YOU are the one choosing the ingredients, serving the dish.  Sometimes you care if the guest doesn’t like it because you might believe in it so strongly and like it so much, but after 15 years in the kitchen, I think you learn to be humble.  Not everyone can like what you like.  You have a lot of failures testing recipes, but you test it–if its not good, you don’t serve it.  Testing is a different type of failure–it doesn’t hurt as much.  Being very much hands-on you eliminate a lot of that.  I haven’t had any serious failures I think.  I’m quite disciplined with myself and what I want, if there’s something that I want, I make it happen.  You just have to stay focused.

     

    For more information on Chef Elfwing and Senses Restuarant, please visit:

    Hilton Kuala Lumpur Hotel

    3 Jalan Stesen Sentral, 50470 Kuala Lumpur

    Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    03-2264-2264

     

    Special thanks to Chef Elfwing, the Senses staff, and Sabrina Loh for making this happen.

    
    

    If you like this post and The Eat Team, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter for updates.

     


  5. Eat Meet: Executive Chef Asker Skaarup Bay

    March 31, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Seven Sea’s seafood soup with herbs & garlic – cumin dusted toast Melba
    Thyme marinated, roasted pork tenderloin on baked root vegetables & prune glace
    Pan-fried Phuket lobster tail on sautéed crushed green pea & lobster bisque
    Slow roasted pineapple & mascarpone mousse, reduced pineapple juice
    Warm chocolate fondant with white liquid center, tamarind juice & honey ice cream
    ON THE GLOBE
    Ko Lanta, Thailand
    ON THE TEAM
    Executive Chef Asker Bay Skaarup, Pimalai 5-Star Resort
     
     

    Close to midnight, Chef Asker walked us down the stairwell from the Seven Seas Restaurant that led to our bright red motorbike.  The sky was ominous, booming with lightning here and there, leaving me feeling a bit like Cinderella leaving the ball at the stroke at 12. Dressed in our evening gowns, we quickly made our descent to avoid the imminent storm after an enchanting evening.

    Try as we might, we did not escape mother nature.  The rain started as we started our engine, a few drops at first, then harder and faster until we could hardly see a thing.  Laughing, we pulled over and took refuge under a bamboo hut.  A lone street dog wandered amongst the flickering streetlights and an indecipherable low pitched horror-film moan filled the air from animals on the ranch across the street.

    More beautiful than scary, it was an unforgettable end to an unforgettable evening.

    Chef Asker wow-ed us to say the least.  Thoughtful, interested, and incredibly talented, he made our experience at Pimalai Resort something special.  He’s worked in the food industry for ages–from his hometown in Denmark, to bustling London, to Dubai, Bangkok, and now Ko Lanta, Asker knows what he’s doing, and he does it well.

    Read on for his thoughts on staying creative, cultural differences, sacrificing for your career, and how he stays James-Bond-fit amongst so much delicious food.

    Introducing Executive Chef Asker Skaarup Bay.

     

    What brought you to work in Thailand?

    I always wanted to work in Asia. I found it is an interesting place compared to European culture – the food, the people, it’s a different way of working.

     

    Did the company ask you to come and work here, or were you looking for work yourself?

    I took a job here two years ago after looking for a job in Asia.

     

    When did you move from being a chef cooking food to managing the kitchens as Executive Chef?

    To;
    About 6 years ago. When we start new menus I brief the concerned staffs, draw up the
    presentation of the dish and some times I arrange the first dish, then we take a photo and
    attach it to the recipe card.During service time I’ll do the rounds in all the kitchens to check that every thing goes
    smoothly.

     

    Is it a lot of paperwork?

    Yes. Sometimes I put more in place than what we need, but it’s a good exercise as you know where different costs go.

     

    What’s your signature dish?

    Seafood soup, one of the most popular dishes here. Also roasted pork tenderloin with roasted veg, and a lobster dish. I’m not a big fan of prawns and lobster but it’s popular. It was a fusion restaurant when I came here but I simplified it.

     

    Are you glad you picked Ko Lanta?

    It’s a nice place – maybe a bit quiet, not much socializing goes on. It’s relaxing but a challenging place to work, it’s harder to find qualified staff and good products than I was used to. Most of our products come from Bangkok although the seafood is local. Almost all of the products on the menu are grown in Thailand.

     

    How big is your team at the moment?

    Sixty people, including students.

     

    And you oversee them all?

    Yes.

     

    It must be a busy day…

    Yes some times. The restaurants are spread all over the resort. We try to do as much as possible home made. The guests appreciate it.

     

    How was it settling in here?

    When you come to a new place it always takes a few weeks to settle down. You need to know how the staff members are working, their strength and weakness etc… and when you accept them they accept you. Once you understand those things you will be able to get a good teamwork and even better when you know their culture.

     

    What’s a regular day in the life of Chef Asker?

    I start around 7 o’clock in the morning and check the breakfast buffets. All the kitchens have
    been closed down and cleaned properly the night before. Then some paperwork needs to be done, I check logbooks, internal cost transfers and staff requests to change or request extra days off. I then attend the morning briefing with the Management, I handle the follow-ups from the morning briefing and check that the breakfast buffets run smoothly. At 11 o’clock I have a briefing with one senior staff member from each kitchen section. Then I a walk through all the kitchens that are in operation for lunch. After that I have time for a break for a couple of hours, then another tour through all the kitchens to make sure they are set for a smooth dinner service.

     

    Do you work everyday?

    I work six days a week. On my days off I visit a beach and have a rest. Once a month I take a
    few days off and go to Bangkok or to some of the neighbour countries to Thailand.

     

    Do you live at the resort?

    Yes, not to far from here. Coming here as a tourist, relaxing for a few days or a week is cool.
    The locals are very laid back, they do not put much effort into meeting the demands from the
    tourists. On your day off you still have to keep in mind you are working at Pimalai because the locals
    and staff know who you are, and even sometimes the guests. Sometimes I miss a socialized
    environment where you can disappear in crowd and no one knows who you are./p>

     

    Why did you leave Dubai?

    Working in Dubai was a good experience in terms of hospitality. Everything is imported and
    you might work with food items that you will not be able to work with in other places because
    of cost. I spent two and half years in Dubai. It was enough.

     

    What is the food scene like on Ko Lanta? And in Thailand in general?

    The food scene here at Koh Lanta is quite basic, all the restaurants serve more or less the
    same kind of food. You wont find many nice restaurants here at Koh Lanta; the backpackers don’t come here for gourmet. In Thailand you get different kind of food depending on where you go; North Thailand serves
    heavier and less spicy food, Bangkok and the center of Thailand serves light and mild spiced
    food, E-san food has a nice special taste which is popular among all the Thais. South Thailand serves lighter and spicier food.

     

    One of the things we have noticed in Thailand is that you can order the same dish from several places but it will always taste totally different, do you know why this is?

    Different Chefs – different taste, I guess food and beverage is a subject of discussion for
    lifetime. The same counts in other countries as well I guess. For example a Caesar salad also tastes
    different from restaurant to restaurant and from café to café

     

    Have you had to get used to any new ingredients in Thailand that you hadn’t used before?

    Everything! That’s one of the reasons it is interesting to travel and work as a Chef, if you don’t
    like it you better stay at home.

     

    So, if you were to go out for a meal where would you go?

    There are not many places to go here at Koh Lanta. I visit a few nice places when in Bangkok:
    Face, a very old fashioned, traditional Thai restaurant where you can choose Thai and Indian
    food or a mix of both if you want. In the basement of Face is a Japanese restaurant too.
    Restaurant Banacahtian serves basic and tasty Thai food. Celadon serves very nice authentic Thai food at The Sukhothai Hotel and also the Thai restaurant at The Peninsula Hotel is worthwhile to visit..

     

    Has your position of Executive Chef taken you away from being creative?

    No not really. I’m involved in all the menu engineering as well as when we start up a new
    menu, from how the ingredients are prepared to how the dish is arranged and served to the guest.
    As much as possible I involve all my staff in making recipes, preparing the ingredients,
    cooking method/technics and arranging the dish. This way they feel that they’ve contributed
    and they feel important.

     

    How often do you create a new menu?

    I change all the menus a few months before the high season so that we have time to practice
    and modify if needed. The Chef Special changes daily at Seven Seas, our signature restaurant.
    Then we have three themes buffets during the week. The Thai buffet in Spice n’ Rice is the
    most popular. Then seafood barbeque in Rak Talay restaurant on the beach as well as the Surf & Turf buffet
    in Rak Talay.

     

    Are most of the customers here from Europe?

    Yes. Most of them are from UK, Australia, Germany, France and Italy, some from New Zealand,
    USA, Russia and India.

     

    What do you eat when you’re not working?

    When I’m at Koh Lanta I go to a street restaurant for some Thai food. If I go out with my friends I enjoy to go out to a restaurant and have a nice dinner and a bottle of wine.

     

    What food is your guilty pleasure?

    I try to eat healthy when I have my main meals. I taste everything while at work during the
    day to control that the food has the same consistency. I taste all the food from raw to finished
    product – even fatty things, but if you eat a little bit only you can take it./p>

     

    How do you stay in shape when you are surrounded by such delicious food?

    I don’t have big main meals. I taste a lot during the day. I eat fruit when I want to have
    something light and I exercise in my break.

     

    What kind of exercise?

    In the gym here. I do weights, running, …anything.

     

    Has that been a habit for a long time?

    Yes. For the last twelve years. Even though I’m tired, I still go to the gym and after a little bit of
    time I get refreshed and get more energy. If I don’t go I regret it.

     

    How was the experience of publishing your dessert book?

    It was a good experience publishing the dessert book. When looking in my book I can see how I have developed during the past. I have always had a big interest in baking and pastry.

     

    What did you learn in the process of creating the book?

    What did I learn? I think that one of the most important things when I prepare a recipe for
    others is that the other person understands how to prepare the dish.

     

    What was your dream job as a child?

    I always liked to bake and cook at home for my family when I was young. I don’t know if I was
    dreaming of what I’m doing now, but I enjoy what I’m doing. I left primary school when I was 15 years old, started in an apprenticeship as baker then continued as Chef apprentice and finally completed a waiter apprenticeship, eight years all together. Then I started traveling with my educations, meeting different food, culture, people and new places, which I found very interesting.

     

    Who are your food heroes, or who has inspired you along the way?

    I don’t really have any food heroes. I observe when I go out, in terms of menu engineering,
    food quality, presentation and price. While working in London I worked at Quo Vadis one of Marco Pierre White’s. first restaurants where I achieved a lot. I get some inspiration from cookbooks and magazines.
    When I look through old cookbooks and magazines I can see how many old ways of preparations and arranging the dishes are coming back.

     

    Have you ever owned a restaurant or would you like to?

    I have been thinking about it! In Denmark there’s a lot of taxes and fees. If I do I will either go back and do something small that I can manage myself, or do something big that I could get other people to manage for me. You need a lot money to start up so at the moment I’m not sure I’d like to do it yet.

     

    What’s your proudest moment in your career to date?

    When things are going smoothly, the guests are happy and give compliments to my staff. It’s
    nice and enjoyable. I feel proud.

     

    What’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened in your career so far?

    A couple of times I have been asked by guests why some dishes not are available on the menu
    when I know the items are in stock.

     

    Have you got any advice for people wanting to enter into a similar career?

    You must understand that you have to work when other people don’t. It’s a hot environment and can be very stressful. You have to like what you’re doing.

     

    Do you still like it?

    YES I still like it. It is not an industry you just join to have a job. You have to sacrifice relation
    ships and family. If you have a job in the hospitality industry your friends and family must understand it and support you. You are not working normal hours Monday to Friday nine to five. Your hours will most likely be Friday to Tuesday eight to twenty one, with a break for a couple of hours during the day.. :-) )

     

    Have you sacrificed part of your family life for your career?

    I don’t know. I’m happy with what I’m doing.

     

    Do you still have family in Denmark?

    Yes. I go back once a year.

     

    Do you miss Danish food?  Do you still cook it here and if so, how do people react to it?

    No I don’t miss Danish food. I’m not a particular person. However Thai food two weeks in a
    row can get a bit boring, I like anything.

     

    What’s your secret for not wanting to be home when you’re away and not wanting to be away when you’re at home?

    I like the Asian culture but when it’s too humid I miss the cold weather, otherwise I like it here
    in Thailand, the island, beaches and city life. I feel Bangkok is my second hometown.

     

    Special thanks to Mirko Langui, Food & Beverage Manager, Chef Asker, and the fabulous Pimalai staff for assistance in making this interview a reality.

    If you’d like to visit Chef Asker and enjoy his sensational food, visit Pimalai 5-Star Resort on Ko Lanta, Thailand.

    If you liked this interview, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter for updates.


     


  6. Kids For A Day

    March 9, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    After spending four days in the jungle with chef Samart, we were ready to be back in the throes of society.  Roaming the streets of Chiang Mai’s city center all day with our friend Evan tuckered us out, and by the time mid afternoon rolled around, Hannah & Evan were hankering for an ice cold beer by the water.  We stopped in to 7-11 to get the local Chang brew, but there was a sign indicating we were out of luck.  No alcohol was being sold that day because of a Buddhist holiday.

    Instead, we decided to be kids again for the day.  We stocked up on toys–yo yos, frisbee, bubble blowers–and some of the most ridiculous (and surprisingly tasty) processed snacks Thailand has to offer.  Here’s our findings on 7-11′s “finest” foods:

    Cuttlefish Crackers: Crispy, salty, a bit like shrimp chips.  ★★★☆☆

    Coconut Bread: Squishy center, very gelatinous.  Strong, desirable coconut flavor with crispy exterior. ★★★☆☆

    Sushi Sunchips: Light and fluffy, strong earthy texture and seaweed flavor.  Different from American sunchips, but equally delicious. ★★★★☆

    Peanuts glazed with sesame seeds and toffee: Sugary, salty and crunchy.  Fantastic dessert, but not so different than nuts you can acquire at home. ★★★☆☆

    Sweet & sour tamarind: Extreme tartness blends well with sugar and chewiness.  Bean pods still inside were unexpected. ★★☆☆☆

    Toffee almond cake: Mild, moist cake, crispy almonds glazed in honey.  A lot like the German pastry called “bienenstich”.  ★★★☆☆

    Original crispy seaweed: Bland and outright nasty on the first bite, better and better with each thereafter.  7-11s in Thailand have a huge selection of different seaweed. ★★★☆☆

    M150 Energy Drink: Impressive that it comes in a glass bottle.  I heard that energy drinks originated in Thailand, so we wanted to see how they compared to the ones at home.  Sweet but not sickly flavor, enjoyable actually.  Amusing text on packaging reads “DEVOTION, COURAGE, SACRIFICE”. ★★★★☆

    Watermelon Seeds: Absolutely disgusting.  Like old burnt nails.  We just imagined someone at the factory munching on a watermelon spitting seeds out and collecting them, baking them for a few minutes, and packaging them up for sale. ☆☆☆☆☆

    Crab Black Pepper Deluxe Potato Chips: Tasted mostly of BBQ.  A classic, enjoyable chip. ★★★★☆

     


  7. Eat Meet No. 2 – Chiang Mai Jungle Curry

    March 6, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Bok Choi Jungle Curry and Moonshine
    ON THE GLOBE
    Mae Wan, Chiang Mai, Thailand
    ON THE TEAM
    Chef Samart Srisoda, Ex-Monk and Philanthropist
     

    Samart’s Lifestory in a Nutshell

    The youngest of 9 children, Samart attended Primary school until his parents could no longer afford it. At 11 years old he started life in a monastery as a Temple Boy and continued his studies as a Monk after a year. Leaving the monastery after 8 years, Samart continued in his education becoming the only member of his family to have a university degree. Samart now runs a successful adventure tour company along with several community projects which help to raise money for families unable to fund education for their children.

    www.theeatteam.com

    Where are we?

    Mae Win, a sub district of Chiang Mai

     

    Where are you from?

    Chiang Mai, Thailand

     

    What are we eating tonight? 

    Bok Choi Jungle Curry with rice, followed by Papaya.

     

    Why/how did you become a chef?

    Started from a young age because my parents had to work long hours as garlic pickers. I cooked for them.  They would get picked up from the nearest village to start a two hour journey – finish at 5 back home at 7 – late.  There was no electricity so after sunset.. the only thing to do is make babies.

     

    What is the food scene like in Chiang Mai?

    Chiang Mai food and Thai food.. very different.  Everywhere has their own food.  Me?  I’m very picky.  I eat 99%  only northern Thai food.  Pad Thai, fried rice.. maybe once a year for me.  I cook all the time.  Here, they wrap fish in banana leaves and put them on the barbecue so it steams.. that’s northern Thai food.  Central Thai food uses a lot of coconut milk.  Northern people hardly use coconut milk–only in pudding.  Muslim people use coconut milk a lot.  Southern Thai also.. that’s why they’re fat!  They use lemon juice, and we use tamarind.  Southern Thai food is more about stir fry, northern is more about curry. The ingredients in Tom (like in Tom Yam and Tom Kha) is sliced and boiled. Gang is ground. Masaman is Buddhist/Hindu curry. Penang is more like red curry.  Burmese curry – tomato peanuts and ginger.

    When you come to Chiang Mai, you must eat the sausage.  And chili paste with pork and tomato.  Sticky rice and Chiang Mai sausage.  The second one is bak choi soup, very simple: in hot water, you cook the bones to make a broth and stock.  Don’t overcook!  Throw fried garlic in.. perfect.  That’s for tomorrow.  Chiang Mai food only.  No Thai food.

     

    What was the first thing you learned how to cook?

    This, what we’re eating tonight–Bak  Choi Curry.  There’s many different types of bak choi, and they’re all very different.  This one is a little bit bitter.  It’s called Hamong.

     

    Where and how did you learn to cook?

    Just watching my parents, seeing how they did it.  My mother liked to cook Thai food, but my Father hated [southern] Thai food.  He liked Chiang Mai food, he thought it was healthier becuase it’s steamed in banana leaves.  He was a smart.  He was a village man but he watched documentaries and the news all the time.  He’s 73 years old.

     

    What is your favorite food?

    Bok choi curry, I eat it twice a week.  I don’t like beige vegetables, only green.  I really like stir fried morning glory with oyster sauce.  Morning glory is from China.

     

    “MSG stands for MMM So Good!”

    Why aren’t there many tomatoes here?

    Thai people don’t really eat a lot of it, and it’s not native.

     

    Do you feel fast food joints are ruining Thai food culture?

    No, I think it has changed the culture, but it’s still just an option and Thailand cannot really say anything because when we decide to be an open, fair trade country, well that means we have to accept everything.  But not many people can afford to eat fast food anyways!  It’s so much more expensive.

    Families cook, but people living in a dorm go out a lot–its cheaper!  It’s more expensive to gather the ingredients and cook at home, unless you share with many people.

     

    Is it usually the mom that cooks?

    Usually women cook, the more common foods especially.  Unless it’s extra special rare food, like rare beef salad, men cook that.

     

    Is there anything you don’t like or ingredients you avoid?

    I just don’t like creamy substances like coconut milk.

     

    Do you prefer cooking here than in your house in Chiang Mai?

    It’s a better atmosphere.  In the city, I’m alone.  This is one of the reasons I participate with couchsurfing, because I like cooking and this way someone eats my food!

     

    “Cooking is my skill, my art. ”

     

    Do you have special occassions that you make food for?

    I cook pretty much every day, so I cook for the holidays too.  I’d rather have a nice meal than go out, so I cook while the others go out and celebrate.  They get home and eat my food.  It’s my skill, its art for me.  I don’t know how to draw or paint, or music… I know nothing.  Cooking is my skill, my art.  Most people still follow the old generation’s advice.  They link that belief to the idea that a spirit would get angry, perhaps give you diarrhea.

     

    What is it that you’re not meant to do that would anger the spirits?

    Well, people do it now, but when I was younger, you would never cook mushroom with meat.

     

    Was there a special diet for the monks?

    Basically, the monk has no choice for food, so they have to eat what the people cook for them.  Eat to live.  And they don’t cook normally, it’s the people’s job.  If they don’t like it, they can cook their own or adapt their tastebuds. And that’s very hard.

     

    Is it true that a lot of Thai food has MSG in it?

    Oh yes, a lot.  But I use chicken stock.  But it still has very low levels of MSG in it.  But nobody knows for sure still whether or not MSG is bad for you.

     

    Why do they use MSG anyways?  It’s tasty enough isn’t it?

    Because sometimes you need a sweetness that’s not sugar.  Normally MSG is from tapioca, a Japanese company in Kanchanaburi, Thailand makes MSG.  It’s not only tapioca powder, but chemicals too, and that’s what they think might be harmful.  Lots of people talk about it, but its still not known.  You keep hearing, ‘oh it’s bad for the blood, it’s bad for the bones,’ and then a couple years later you hear from American scientists that nothing’s wrong.

     

    How do you feel about MSG?

    It’s a drug.  People get addicted to it.

     

    Where do you get MSG?

    Just from the shop.  It’s like a white powder. Started in Japan but there’s a factory in Kanchanaburi. When you study science you learn about MSG from a very early age as if it’s a drug, good teachers try to stop kids from having it and advise against them having it. You can use mushroom if veggie, or chicken or pork stock if not instead.

    My Sister and mother are good at cooking but use too much MSG. You can’t change the people in the village or older relatives who are stuck in their ways. I am the first of my family to get a degree, but they dont listen to me about MSG. If they have never been to school then they haven’t ever learned about it, therefore don’t care. I say to my Mother, “If you can’t tell me what MSG stands for then you need to stop using it.” She replies, “MSG stands for MMM So Good!”

     

    Have you tried cooking food other than Thai food?

    I cook Italian sometimes.  I cook pizza, and adapt it in my way–I make red curry pizza.  And Thai lasagna, including chilis, garlics, coriander seeds, spices, tumerics, like what we put in the chili paste we are making tonight.  I like red meat so I would put pork or beef in it.  Kangaroo meat is the best meat in the world, no fat because they’re hopping all day.

     

    Did you build this place?

    Yes, it took 2.5 years.  Now they are solar powered and there’s internet.  I started in May 2 years ago.  I started with only 1 bungalow, I wanted only 1, and then.. more and more.

     

    If you were gonna eat a really fatty meal, what would it be?

    Bacon is the worst food that I would eat.

     

    Why isn’t there cheese in Thai food?

    Because Thailand is a tropical region–just because it’s hot.  Cheese is meant to keep you warm.  New chefs bring a revolution in the last 15 years and now lots of people use cheese mixed with Thai food.

     

    Do you ever use cheese in your cooking?

    No never.. except for the Thai lasagna.

     

    We’ve ordered the same dish in several places, but they’ve all tasted different.  Why?

    When cooking, chefs can have the same skills, same ingredients, but the food can taste totally different. The key is that you need the same pot and same heat–bronze and open air fire from a clay oven. If you want to cook lemur or deer you need to cook in a clay pot so it smells like the earth.

     

    How do you know how much of each ingredient to put in since you’re not measuring anything?

    You can feel how much you need to put in from your heart. (If you’re a real chef!)

    To work, volunteer, or vacation with Samart visit chaingmaiecolodges.com or email him at spicywildpumpkin@gmail.com

     


  8. EAT Meet No. 1 – Los Angeles Jambalaya

    January 12, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    Photos by Melissa Rachel Black


    ON THE MENU 
    Vegan Jambalaya with Roasted Kabocha Squash
    ON THE CANVAS
    Pencil Illustration
    ON THE GLOBE
    Los Angeles, California, USA
    ON THE TEAM
    Chef Tony Yuan, Graphic Designer Ben Azarraga
     

    Last week, I sat down to interview chef Tony Yuan and graphic designer Ben Azarraga over dinner in Tony’s West Hollywood apartment for The EAT Team’s very first EAT Meet!  Los Angeles is well-known as a melting pot of cultures, as well as a hotspot for vegan/organic lifestyles, so it was very fitting that we chowed down on the tastiest (and admittedly, the only) Vegan Japanese Jambalaya I ever had.  Even better than the food and art was the company.  Both Ben and Tony are creative to the core, and their passion and energy gave me a huge boost of positivity and inspiration.

    The recipe for Tony’s LA Jambalaya and Ben’s original illustration will be available in The EAT Team book.  Keep an eye out for our kickstarter campaign in the next few months, where you’ll be able to pre-order your copy  and get bonus goodies like ingredients mailed to you from foreign countries and signed artist’s prints.

    Without further ado, here’s the interview with Tony & Ben.

     

    What is your dream work/life scenario?  

    Ben: Owning my own design firm.  I like to boss people around.  I think I see potential in everybody’s work and I’m able to help people develop that.  While I was in school a lot of the students would ask me for help, and I get inspiration from seeing what people do.

     

    Are you living an awesome life? [Nice question, tony!]

    Ben:

    I’m living the life I wanted.

    Originally when I started school, I was gonna be an engineering major because my parents told me I had to make a lot of money.  All throughout highschool I was good at art, but I thought it wasn’t gonna make any money at all.  It was a big thing with my parents, they were against it initially because of the money but they finally started to support me.

    All I wanted was to be able to make money from art, and I have that now.  Especially with my latest job.. every time I go to work, i feel like.. i like it.

     

    That is rare and awesome indeed.  How did you get your job that you love?

    Ben: My last job wasn’t as professional as I would have liked, and one day I realized I needed to find a place I was happy to go into.  I know from experience you never feel “ready” to go for your dreams, but I just applied to all these places and got a few interviews with great companies.  I feel like I have a lot to say now at my new job in the designs and we trust each other and they’re confident in what I do.

     

    What’s the first thing you drew?

    Ben: I specifically remember–it was a superhero.  It was in second grade, and my sister was really mean to me back then, and one day I was crying because I was so upset, and I drew a superhero because I thought I could make it come to life.  I remember thinking, “One day I’m going to be an artist.”  His name was Mighty Max and he had triangle eyes.

    Tony: I used to draw superheroes too!

     

    Do you like to cook and what about it do you like?

    Ben: Yeah, just the satisfaction of feeding somebody.

     

    You do graphic design, what else do you like?  

    Ben: I like just regular pen and pencil, just because I have more control over it versus painting.  I tried everything.  I like stuff that tells a story.

    "I'm living the life I wanted."

    What food did you grow up with?

    Ben:  My mom cooked great phillipino food, always two meat dishes and a side dish and rice. In high school I was obsessed with eggs.  My sister and I would always have eggs when we got home and a year later when we went to our physicals, we both had really high cholesterol!  After that we started cooking different things.

    Tony: My grandma cooked a lot of Chinese food.  Living in America is a melting pot though so I had a lot of different stuff.

     

    What is your food guilty pleasure?  It would probably be McDonald’s cheeseburgers.  I think its because its so soft.

    They have a saying “Never trust a skinny chef” but I did get chubbier after Cooking school [le cordon bleu] ’cause I tried everything and ate late.  I don’t get inspired when I’m cooking for myself.

     

    What inspired you to cook?

    Tony:  I would say it was a gradual thing, I started to cook for my mom at home.  It started off really slow, like adding my own seasonings to simple spaghetti sauce.  Breakfast was a great way to start because eggs aren’t premade, you actually alter it yourself.  I really like making food for other people, I don’t like to cook for myself.

    OH!  I have a great story!  I was late for one of my first jobs, and to make it up to my boss I made homemade truffles, and the reaction I got, “WOW!  you did that?!” really fueled my desire.  I loved that feeling and still do.

     

    How do you guys know eachother? 

    Myspace… like six years ago.

     

    Do you like cooking desserts more or main courses?

    Tony: I’ve been kinda going back and forth with that, cause with cooking you can always add something if it doesn’t taste right, but with baking, if its not done right at the beginning, its ruined.  Cooking is like a different kind of art.  From baking a cupcake to a jumbalaya, its just totally different.  I like baking because I like giving baked goods as gifts, but cooking is great because it brings people together, like parties or families.

     

    How do you come up with new recipes?

    Tony: I browse recipes for inspiration on the internet, check out the flavor profile and adapt it to fit my likes.

     

    Why is kabocha in tonight’s Creole food?

    Tony: LA is a melting pot of cultures and flavors and I like to do fusion foods, I like to experiment.  I don’t like to make the same foods over and over.

    Please share with your friends if you dig this post!  Thanks!


  9. Ready Set Go with Rice Paper Scissors

    December 27, 2011 by The E.A.T. Team

    Last week I had the honor of photographing (and eating with!) San Francisco’s first Vietnamese Pop-Up Cafe, Rice Paper Scissors.  Vietnam is one of The E.A.T. Team’s first stops next year, so chowing down with these lovely ladies really got me excited for what my mouth is going to experience in just a few short months.  Seeing this team in action really filled my heart (and belly) with awesome sauce for a bunch of reasons.  Some of them being:

    • Pursuit of passion.  Cofounders Valerie Luu & Katie Kwan just love Vietnamese street food and wanted to share it with the world.  They blasted through the fear of “will this work?” when thinking about starting their food biz and set out to make it happen.  In addition to “popping-up” in various locations throughout San Francisco for public feasts such as these, the girls have a weekly gig at Mojo Bicycle Cafe.
    • Ridiculous tasty.  It’s handmade, fresh, and prepared right before your very eyes.  I got to sample the Rice Porridge (see photo) with juicy chicken and ginger and vegan “duck” Bahn Mi, a popular sandwich on a crusty french baguette with Pate, vegetables like carrots & daikon.
    • Down to earth.  Literally.  One of the defining aspects of Rice Paper Scissors is their small tables and even smaller “little red stools”.  It’s about being close to your food and to the friends you share it with.  It was hosted in the front yard of a beautiful old house right on Valencia Street in a popular district of San Francisco, so passersby couldn’t help but notice the scent and the sight.
    • Down to earth, figuratively.  I loved to see people walking by stop after smelling the eggs frying and the people chowing down, asking “Do you do this every week?!”  It was a flurry of friends, strangers, old, young, new, repeat, and everything in between laughing and eating and drinking.  Simple, unadulterated goodness.
    Stay tuned for The E.A.T. Team’s upcoming interview with Rice Paper Scissors about food, life, and following your dreams (via your stomach).  They’ll be one of the first contributors to the recipe section of the book as well.
    See all the photos and find out how to dine with Rice Paper Scissors here.