Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn, Le Du Restaurant and Wine Bar/Baan Restaurant/Nusara (Bangkok, Thailand)

Chef Ton’s passion for cooking started from early memories of home cooked meals by his grandmother. After spending time in America and graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Ton clocked hours in some of New York’s prestigious restaurants including Eleven Madison Park, The Modern and Jean Georges.

Returning to Bangkok, he opened up Le Du Restaurant and Wine Bar, a fine dining restaurant which showcases the techniques and what he has learnt from his time in New York but not forgetting his roots of Thai flavours and also, Baan, a more casual family style restaurant. His passion does not stop in his restaurants but extends into his commitment as a judge on Top Chef Thailand.

The name Le Du derives from the Thai word for “season,” which also reflects Ton’s use of seasonal produce, along with local sustainable ingredients. This dedication and perseverance has earned the restaurant a ranking of number 20 on the Asia’s 50 best restaurants list and a Michelin star.

– QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH CHEF TON –

1- How do you define your style of cooking and philosophy behind your flagship restaurant Le Du?

Chef Ton

Modern Thai cuisine with not only the taste but the terroir of Thailand. We change the menu according to Thailand’s seasons and We only use 100% local Thai produces. No imported produce.

2- You have another restaurant which is more casual compared to Le Du. Can you tell us more about Baan and the philosophy behind it?

Chef Ton

If Le Du is my passion as a chef, Baan is my soul. It is the food that I grew up eating. I am just serving my childhood memories with my guests and diners.

3- What will/should your diners expect when dining at your restaurants?

Chef Ton

Unpretentious-ness. That is what they should expect in any of my restaurants. I am an easy going guy and the restaurants are the reflections of myself. 

6- When and how did you know you wanted to be a chef. Who and what inspired you to cook?

Chef Ton

After working in a bank for a month, I knew I needed to cook instead. Ha!

5- Thai Food varies from regions to regions. The food from central Thailand, the North, the South and the Northeast are completely different and very unique on it’s own. Can you tell us more/explain about the food and how it changes from region to region.

Chef Ton

Every regions have it’s own style. All cuisines were developed from cultures and availability of products back in the old days. For example, in the real Northern cuisine, they will use rotten bean to season the food instead of shrimp paste because there is no sea and shrimp in the northern parts of Thailand. But what ever the region, Thai food will have it’s own distinct flavours. Also, they all share the same taste, the taste of motherland. 

6- Having lived in America for quite some time, how do you think the western world perceives Thai food?

Chef Ton

They love it! For the right and wrong reasons. I think the Thai foods that most westerner know are not the best representation of Thai Cuisine and I want to change that little by little. 

7- Establishing a great relationship with your suppliers are crucial to ensuring quality ingredients and produce delivered to your door. How are the relationships between you and your supplier?

Chef Ton

I work mostly with small farmers, fishermen and suppliers. Our relationships are very important, we are more like friends rather than business relationships.

8- Wine matching is an essential part of a dining experience; do you work closely with your sommelier to ensure the perfect pairing? 

Chef Ton

I am a certified sommelier from the court of Master Sommelier so yes, I take my wines very serious!

9- How do you bring balance to dishes on the menu. Can you explain to us the creative process when making a dish from start to finish? 

Chef Ton

It takes lots of time to develop one good dish. We always start working 4-6 months on a new menu prior to launching it.

10- Have you got a mentor or figure that you particularly admire/respect throughout your career as a chef? 

Chef Ton

I respect David Thompson – he is a hero of Thai cuisine. He is not Thai but so what? Without him, Thai food will not have come this far on the world stage.

11- Top 5 ingredients to have in your pantry

Chef Ton

Thai bird’s eye Chilli, Thai garlic, good fish sauce, fermented fish and shrimp paste. 

12- Top 5 favourite produce to work with.

Chef Ton

River prawn, local squid, Jicama, egg and rice.

13- Have you got any advice to young chefs or any chefs that are dwelling into the the world of Thai food?

Chef Ton

You got to love it! And if you do, don’t worry as you will do it very well. With hard work and sweat. 

14- There is a much greater coverage and understanding of Thai food compared to many years ago. With Michelin coming to Thailand and more restaurants featured on the Asia’s 50 best list. What are your thoughts of the Thai culinary scene in the upcoming years to come?

Chef Ton

I hope it will keep rising to show the world how good Thai food is. Also showing the refined side of our cuisine. 

15- Where are your favourite restaurants to go to in Bangkok? or anywhere in the world. 

Chef Ton

Except my own restaurants? It will have to be Bo.lan, Eat me, Sorn and Lerdthip.

16- You have 2 restaurants in Bangkok and also a judge on Top Chef Thailand. What are the future plans for Chef Ton?

Chef Ton

Keep making noise for Thai Cuisine – that is my goal.

18- Can you share us a recipe for one of your dishes? 

Chef Ton

River prawn, mountain rice & shrimp paste

River prawn, mountain rice and shrimp paste

Sauce

  • 500gm Prawn head
  • 3 pieces Red chilli
  • 10gm Galangal
  • 8 pieces Kaffir lime leave
  • 5 pieces Lemongrass
  • 1 Tbs Chilli paste
  • 480ml Cream
  • Salt and lime juice to taste
  1. Roughly slice red chilli, galangal and lemongrass.
  2. Bring prawn head, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leave, red chilli, chilli paste and cream to the boil.
  3. As cream starts to heat up, constantly crush the prawn heads to release it’s flavours into the cream.
  4. Once ingredients have infused and released it flavours, cool and then put into a blender to blend.
  5. Strain through a chinois and season with salt and lime juice.

Mountain rice risotto

  • 1/2 Brown onion
  • 350gm Black rice
  • 250gm Shrimp Paste
  • 1000ml Chicken stock
  • 480ml Cream
  1. Finely dice brown onion.
  2. Heat pot with oil, add onions and cook until slightly translucent in colour.
  3. Transfer the black rice into the pot and saute.
  4. Add a full ladle of stock and constantly stir the black rice with a spatula making sure that the rice is evenly cooked.
  5. Keep adding stock every 2-3 mins.
  6. Once the risotto is al dente, add the shrimp paste and cream. Combine well.

River Prawn

  1. Butterfly cut the prawns in half and leaving the tomalley.
  2. Cook on charcoal with shell down.

©Thitid Tassanakajohn

– FURTHER INFORMATION –

CHEF : Thitid Tassanakajohn

Instagram- @cheftonn

Le Du Restaurant and Wine Bar

399/3 Silom 7 Alley, Khwaeng Silom, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500, Bankok

http://www.ledubkk.com/

Baan Restaurant

139/5 Wireless Road, Lumphini Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330

http://www.baanbkk.com/

Nusara Restaurant

22 Maha Rat Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200

https://www.facebook.com/nusarabkk/

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