You may walk into chef Ian Kittichai’s new Issaya Cooking Studio with no knowledge of Thai or international cuisine only to walk out with a bunch of teachings and a happy tummy.
by Anita Zaror
“And you can put some mint at the top for decoration. We will try it first and, then, it’s your turn,” said chef Damri Musombat as he finished the demonstration of how to prepare larb gai, a northeastern Thai-style chopped chicken salad which he made with homegrown mint and sawtooth coriander, in roasted sticky rice dressing.
The students looked at each other in silence and then giggled. Then headed to their cooking stations, including me. Some would hastily go through the notes they had made on the printed recipe they had received; some looked at the ingredients that had been set for us at the station in separate small bowls, then back to the chef, then back to the ingredients again; and some put the basil, onion, or lemongrass on the cutting board and started chopping them with precision.
The classes at internationally acclaimed Thai chef Ian Kittichai’s new Issaya Cooking Studio (www.issayastudio.com) are designed for those who still burn the rice when cooking it, for those who already manage not to cut their fingers while cutting vegetables, and even for professional chefs.
The studio is located on the lower level of the curved and angular high-end Central Embassy (www.centralembassy.com) shopping complex, which recently opened in Bangkok. Besides being an exciting addition to the existing cooking schools in town—which mostly teach Thai cuisine and cater to tourists—it is the culmination of chef Kittichai’s flagship restaurant, the renowned Issaya Siamese Club (www.issaya.com), and Frederic Meyer. In fact, in the “Issaya Recipes” class (THB 2,000++) offered daily, students are treated to the secrets of recipes that are part of the restaurant’s menu and in “Issaya Siamese Club Cookbook: Innovative Thai Cuisine” by chef Kittichai (except for the Desserts class, which is THB 3,000++.
“They wanted the kitchen to have an ‘at home’ feel, so that people don’t come in here feeling like they’re under pressure to get a certificate and qualify as a chef. This is more about having fun and learning how to cook food that sounds complicated but is actually quite basic, so that everyone can come here, go home, go to the supermarket and recreate what we’ve taught them,” says Issaya’s resident chef, the Australian award-winning Benjamin McRae.
And you will be able to tell the difference from other cooking schools in town the moment you step in. The chic space of 170 square meters is a loft with high ceilings. It’s brightly lit and decorated with funky colors and a contemporary feel that offers its students state-of-the-art equipment to work with. Really. Sub-Zero and Wolf refrigeration, ovens, and cooktops; GiO Kitchen benchtops; Seagull frying pans and cooking utensils; Lucaris glassware; and a bar stocked by Pernod Ricard. You will work with the same equipment used by some of the world’s best chefs and restaurants, in a casual atmosphere surrounded by happy music, friendly staff, and excited students.
You will be greeted with a sampling of Issaya La Pâtisserie’s pastries—located on Central Embassy’s fifth floor—and the studio will provide an apron, cooking materials and ingredients, as well as professional staff who make sure everything is set and ready at your station while you watch the chef demonstrate each dish.
What’s also very cool about the space is that, by moving the cooking stations around, it can be turned into a chef’s table for intimate dining, or into a bespoke event room complete with a bar and a lounge area, where friends can gather around a “Beverage” class (THB 800++) and learn how to make five cocktails, and they could even have a competition where mixologist Justin Dunne will pick a winner!
Classical and basic Thai cuisine, chocolaterie, pastry, classes for children and even some that dig into molecular culinary techniques are part of the monthly curriculum taught by either chefs from Issaya Siamese Club or by guest chefs from restaurants in Thailand and abroad (up to THB 4,500++).
Currently, their clients range from expats and Japanese housewives to Thais interested in pastry or international cuisine, as well as the casual tourist looking to take back home some secrets of the food they’ve been delighted with while visiting the Land of Smiles. You might walk into Issaya Cooking Studio with no knowledge of Thai ingredients and cooking methods, but you will walk out with a handful of recipes and ideas … and a full stomach.
Walk-ins are welcome, but advance reservation is recommended.
Yam Nua Yang
Grilled Beef Salad
250 grs cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise into 8-centimeter pieces
120 grs cherry tomatoes, halved
200 grs beef, grilled, and sliced
40 grs onion, sliced
8 grs goat pepper, deseeded, and thinly sliced (optional)
20 grs celery leaves, separated
200 ml Nam jim seafood daeng (red seafood dipping sauce)
1. Place the cucumber pieces and tomato halves in a bowl, and soak in nam jim seafood daeng (red seafood dipping sauce) for 30 minutes, then remove.
2. On a plate, place the cucumber pieces and tomato halves, and top with grilled beef slices.
3. Pour nam jim seafood daeng (red seafood dipping sauce) on top and decorate with onion, goat pepper, and celery leaves.