“My parents started cooking since I was young. My mother influenced me the most. I studied Art & Design in Australia and earned pocket money working in a Thai cuisine restaurant. I was doing everything, from kitchen, front of house, managing the place. I preferred doing that than studying Art.”
I started Royal Brat in 2014. It was when Instagram was gaining popularity. My skills, creation, cooking techniques are all self-taught. The first cookbook that I learnt from was Eleven Madison Park. I started to collect more cookbooks after that.
I will try out all sorts of recipes. I invested on plates, equipment and ingredients. I cook every day and take photos of my creation on my iPhone. In 2016, media from all the world started to feature Royal Brat through social media. CNN contacted me via Instagram, and my work started to be featured in many countries, even as far as Germany. This was also the year where clients started to approach me to collaborate. Now, I have my manager, Irin from Taste Inc. Asia who manages my portfolios, so that I can focus on my creations.
I also started to conduct plating workshops at my home on the weekends. Some clients flew from abroad to attend my classes.
It is not easy to do your own thing. I attribute my success to my sense of artistry. I like to work with my hands. I love working with colours – whether it is contrast or complementing colours. I will never stop doing this. It helps to have a support unit of like-minded chefs to exchange knowledge and support each other.
You have to know your ingredients. It does not matter how many elements, it depends on how much you want to showcase and the final taste.
It would help if you had a passion for doing this; it is a passion-driven profession. Keep learning; never stop. You have to make sacrifices to do what you want to do. Don’t think about making money at first. I learn from my mistakes. I fall, I pick myself up and keep going.
I enjoy going to the markets. Every time I travel abroad, I have to visit the local markets. I like to read the sauce labels — Thai, Western, Japanese, all sorts. My style of cooking at home is comfort food, like toast with avocado and egg, nothing like what you see on my work account. Yesterday, I cooked Som Tam, a Thai papaya salad.
I changed my diet regularly. It can be experiencing vegetarian for a year, pescatarian for a few months. I learn more about ingredients because I have a limitation of using certain elements but go more in-depth on certain ingredients. It allows me to explore more.
I am launching a vegetable smoothie brand in Bangkok by the end of the year (2019) called PAAK (vegetable in Thai) with a few business partners. The menu will feature local vegetables with fruit-based smoothies. Watch this space!
Interview and photography by Theresa Burhan