Just when I thought Chef’s Table couldn’t get any more interesting, this episode popped up. It features chef Bo Songvisava (and her erstwhile co-chef and husband Dylan Jones) through their quest to bring authentic Thai cuisine back to Thailand.
That might sound a little silly to you at first. After all, what could they eat in Thailand except Thai cuisine? But outside homes, Thai cuisine is relatively rare in fine dining, although it can be found on the streets.
Bo Songvisava wanted to attend culinary school, but her parents pushed her to obtain a college degree. She received two degrees in Australia, one in restaurant and catering management and the other in gastronomy. While in Australia, she learned English, but returned to Thailand to seek restaurant work.
At the time she began cooking in restaurants, Thai chefs, like the Turkish chefs of yesterday’s episode, received training in French and Mediterranean cooking techniques. But they knew next to nothing about Thai cuisine. Bo found herself embarrassed that she couldn’t answer simple questions about her food culture when asked by foreign chefs.
She worked under Amanda Gale at Mediterranean restaurant Cy’an, but became increasingly interested in exploring Thai cuisine. Amanda introduced her to Australian chef David Thompson. Thompson was the owner and head chef of London’s Nahm, regarded one of the finest Thai restaurants in the world. It also held a Michelin star.
During her time at Nahm, Bo connected with Thai cuisine and met her future husband, Dylan Jones, with whom she today has two children. They returned to Thailand together in 2008 and opened Bo.lan. Today, their restaurant focuses on authentic Thai food — Bo often uses recipes handed down across generations — and sustainable, organic ingredients. Through her work at Bo.lan, Bo hopes to stem the tide of food industrialization in Thailand. She ties her belief in local ingredients to a fervent desire to protect and maintain the environment for future generations.
Throughout the episode, Bo’s obvious intelligence and awareness about the world shone through, along with her passion for Thai cuisine. I love the working relationship she has with her husband Dylan — they argue often, but only strengthen their bond in this way. A true culinary genius, she was named Asia’s best female chef in 2013. Her restaurant now sits in the top twenty restaurants in the world. She has revolutionized the fine dining scene in Thailand, shifting the spotlight towards Thai cuisine. In all that she does, she creates Thai food without compromises. Her restaurant lives up to its tagline — “essentially Thai.”
Read more about Bo Songvisava with this interview from Food and Wine Gazette. I’ll be back with your coverage of the last episode in Volume 5 of Chef’s Table tomorrow.