'A chef cannot hate an ingredient'

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A chef cannot hate an ingredient

Table talk with Anan Tumya, Thai Chef, The Backyard, Steigenberger Hotel, Dubai

By Staff reporter

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Published: Thu 22 Feb 2018, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 23 Feb 2018, 1:00 AM

Your favourite memory of food.
As a little boy, I remember pestering my grandmother and mother to take me along to the vegetable market. I was mesmerised, watching them pick the freshest herbs and ingredients, before returning home to cook up a symphony of Thai flavours and fragrances. More than eating the meal, I enjoyed watching these two artists put it all together. It's what inspired me to study culinary arts and follow my true passion to become a chef.

What's the most challenging part of your job?
There are no challenges that cannot be faced. I welcome challenges as I love every aspect of my work. There is so much art and beauty in Thai cooking - so I stay focused on that. My challenge is always to make my food and my art better.

Do you have a personal mantra or motto that drives the way you cook food?
Stay true to who you are, and your finest creations will follow.

If you could cook for a high-profile personality, who would it be and what would you serve them?
I have had the honour of cooking for a number of VIPs but, to be honest, each guest is a VIP to me. If a guest requests, I'll even make dishes that are off the menu for him/her. To me, cooking is like creating a painting or sculpture and putting it out there for the world to see. I would like everyone to experience and enjoy my art. A special dish I like to serve Thai food lovers in Dubai is "Tom Yam Gung" - a spicy and sour soup with prawn. It is a well-known Thai dish, and the main ingredients are broth, clear soup from bone, and a variety of Thai herbs and condiments. I have my secret places from where I source fresh ingredients so the flavours of my Tom Yam Gung are authentic, which people here in Dubai love.
How often do you eat out? What's your favourite place around town?
I don't eat out too often, but when I do, it's usually a Thai restaurant. I like The Thai Kitchen - they have really good food and ambience.
After cooking all day, do you cook for yourself at home too?
Yes, every day and every night. But I keep it simple, unlike the way I serve my guests. For them, it's always a grand presentation - but for me, a simple Thai curry with rice or Thai papaya salad is just perfect.
You're asked to invent an unusual dish - what would it be?
Thai cuisine is so vibrant yet balanced. The pillars of Thai cooking - sour, sweet, bitter, salty, and spicy - are a delicate balancing act, which gives us plenty of room to play around with. You can pair dishes with a boost of flavour from different Thai dipping sauces and turn a simple dish into something completely unique and different. This fusion is something I relish - so if you want to know what unusual dishes I could create, you'd have to visit our restaurant and find out for yourself!
Who do you admire most in the culinary world, and why?
My grandmother and mother were my first mentors. The way they cooked food is something I have never seen in the professional world, so I admire them the most. They took care of every little detail, from choosing the best ingredients to cooking them the right way and serving it all with love.

Favourite comfort food?
That would be my all-time favourite Thai fish cakes or spring rolls, depending on my mood. I also love nibbling on crispy prawn crackers.

One ingredient/ dish you can't stand, and why.
Nothing at all. A chef cannot hate anything. If I don't like anything in particular, I just don't use it. But as an artist, I believe everything has its own place on the platter.
If you could choose a last meal, what would it be?
I would start with Tom Yum Soup, Pad Thai (which I make with a special sauce), home-style green curry and rice, and wrap it up with mango sticky rice. The perfect meal and the perfect balance of flavours!

Your favourite culinary destination, and why?
No surprises here - it's Thailand for me! Our food is so incredibly flavoursome and healthy at the same time.
- Staff reporter

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