Writer : Editor Team
As the very first winner of Top Chef Thailand, Chudaree Debhakam or Chef Tam has become well known. With her passion in traveling and bold characteristic, Tam had turned down the jobs in restaurants or hotels and chose to be freelance chef who cooked in her own style.
Cooking is an art and it is an individual signature. Chef Tam chooses to cook in Special Events, Pop up Projects, Catering Events and Road Shows. She emphasizes on her own passion in local Thai ingredients. Tam started her journey to explore ingredients and contacted directly with the farmers all over Thailand.
She chose only organic ingredients. The journey didn’t only allow her to find the fresh ingredients but also broadened her perspective and brought many new ideas.
“I think the charm of each local Thai ingredient is its unique taste. It is challenging to bring these tastes into one dish”
Tam explained that the “Pop up Project” was about the tasting menu extended from her passion in Thai ingredients. She tried choosing unique ingredients from each region or seasonal ingredients, for example, local rice, edible forest plants, organic vegetables, local herbs, forest herbs and various types of meat. Tam created new delicious flavor to each dish such as Duck Laab terrine chicken liver mousse with Ma Kwan Jaew (a northern wild ice), Cold egg noodles Thai mackerel bushi finger root broth pickles, Ta Pao Thong chicken in turmeric leaf bone broth, and Red jasmine rice brioche etc. These dishes were served in more pleasant atmosphere than in common restaurants. Tam believes that delicious food comes from good ingredients.
“I really love cooking with Thai ingredients. My journey to find ingredients always ends up with new ideas and dishes. It also creates new eating experience to my guests. It is like I bring them directly to the farm not to the market. I hosted three Pop up projects already. Although they were like experiments, both guests and I satisfied. The third one was more than a usual meal because I created full new experience to the guests. Apart from new menu, I set light & sound and presentation during the meal in order to make the guests experience the bamboo forest where the ingredients come from. I arranged four sets of food. Each set had different presentation. There will be the forth Pop up project soon on Nov 14-15. It will be the first time I cook A La Carte dishes. The guests can choose what they want from my 11 dishes.”
The food interpretation and artistic presentation made Chef Tam become an idol for many teenage foodies. Her Instagram’s followers reached 60,000 in short period.
Chef Tam enjoys new experiments all the time. She joined the workshop with new theory agriculturists about making natural fertilizer. It had been used in experimental garden so her vegetables became non-chemical. She also used bamboo plates which was inspired by her experience of drinking water from the creek.
“Galangal chili paste with fried Chinese dough is one of my favorite invented dishes. I had have dried chili paste with sticky rice from Chiang Dao district, Chiang Mai and adapted the paste to be juicier. I also changed it side dish from sticky rice to fried Chinese dough. It turned out to be a perfect match.”
Tam’s bold characteristic brought many local herbs and vegetables to chef’s table with her magnificent presentation. “I want to surprise my guests with ingredients. I want to create gimmicks and food memory for them. They should be introduced to new aroma, taste and experience from my food.”
Recently, Chef Tam has worked on a project “Baan Debha”, where she renovated a vast old house of her grandma in Ramkhamhang to be a “Food Space.” Tam wants this place to be an integrated food education center for ingredients, food preservation, experimental garden, library and space for food event. “I plan to build a full-service food space with huge kitchen where people can come and cook. There will be cookbooks corner, cooking classes and workshops. It will be the food camp for foodies. I believe that this trend is coming because more and more people become foodies. This is the right moment.”
Moreover, Chef Tam also collaborates with her sister, Toey, in manufacturing food product. They has worked with new generation of agriculturists in Chiang Rai to help managing the oversupply of pineapple. They produce “pineapple syrup” namely “Dejai by Debha” to solve this problem. It is the first product in Design by Debha product line which will have the opening ceremony soon.
Chef Tam’s story shows us unlimited possibility one passion can make. Let’s see how far her dream of bringing Thai ingredients and genuine Thai food to the global venue can go.