Bangkok’s buzzing gourmet scene is welcoming a fine-dining experience unlike any the city has ever seen. Premium winery Château Palmer and Le Du invite fine-dining and wine enthusiasts to a unique six-hands wine dinner, led by three of Asia’s rising star chefs — Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery, Richie Lin of Mume, and of course, Bangkok’s very own Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn of Le Du. Titled ‘Asian Fine Gastronomy & Palmer’, the experience will see each chef showcase their unique craftsmanship, using only seasonal and local ingredients. Fascinating dishes like ox tongue, and fish sauce with chocolate will be complemented by fine wines of Château Palmer dating back to 1995.
While wines are mostly associated with food from the West, this dinner showcases the potential of Asian cuisine, and how it complements fine wines. It also brings to light the possibility of enjoying an exquisite gastronomy experience, while being sustainable at the same time — a shared value strongly upheld by all three chefs and Château Palmer. Before the big day, Prestige had a quick chat with each of the participating chefs, to get to know the faces behind these great establishments in Asia.
Chef Jordy Navarra from Toyo Eatery, Manila
1. He majored in history, with a baseball scholarship.
From history to business and music, chef Jordy had his fair share of exploring before he made the jump into gourmet. “At first, I didn’t think about the food industry as a career, although I’ve always been passionate about food — the creative and technical side attracted me. When I saw creative chefs taking pleasure in their work, I wanted to become like them.”
2. Dishes served at his establishment, Toyo Eatery, are more ‘raw’ than they are pretty.
“At Toyo eatery, we try to show our non-traditional take on Filipino food by using local ingredients and organic products where we can.” He describes what he does as “making food that we like to make and eat, and that Filipino people can relate to.”
“We try to represent Filipino food in a way that both outsiders and Filipino people can understand. We focus on quality and good presentation, but we don’t try to make ‘artwork’ on the plate — our approach is a “raw” approach.” Authenticity aside, Toyo Eatery also tries to be as biodynamic and fair-trade as possible.
Chef Jordy only uses organic produce for his bakery at Panaderya Toyo. “We work with a lot of organic and biodynamic farmers for the vegetables, as well as line-caught and wild-caught fish.”
3. One of his most famous dishes was transformed from a local nursery rhyme.
Proof that creative inspiration can come from anywhere — even traditional folk songs sung during youth. “[The dish’s] story comes from a Filipino song that everyone learns as a child, called ‘Bahay Kubo’, which is about a house with a garden. In this song, eighteen vegetables are enumerated, so we decided to transform this song into a dish that would incorporate all those 18 vegetables.
Chef Richie Lin from Mume, Taipei
1. Nature-driven, sustainable dining is his go-to philosophy.
“Scandinavians put a big emphasis on seasonality and locally-sourced products,” he says of his time at Noma, Copenhagen’s two-Michelin-starred establishment. His establishment is heavily influenced by his experiences working in some of the best kitchens in the world — including Australia’s Quay. “I wanted to bring this style and philosophy back to Taiwan. Restaurants with an emphasis on seasonality and local products already existed in Taiwan, but not in a modern European way, so I was the first to bring it in this form to the Island.”
“I believe in a cuisine that emphasises the use of local, seasonal and sustainable products, and that passes on this message to the diners — that’s my philosophy.”
2. His restaurant might be in Taipei, but he isn’t Taiwanese — neither is his food.
“My cuisine is not related to Taiwanese cuisine — I don’t do a contemporary style of traditional Taiwanese cuisine, only my products are Taiwanese. Actually, defining what Taiwanese cuisine really is, is hard even for Taiwanese people themselves. Taiwanese cuisine doesn’t have a strong identity, unlike Thai cuisine for example.”
“However, it’s important to showcase Taiwanese products. My approach consists of doing everything in my power, so when a foreigner comes into my restaurant, he can really feel the Taiwanese terroir, he can taste the culinary riches of Taiwan, and its diversity.”
3. He still remembers the first time he had wine, and has high hopes for encouraging wine-pairing with high-end Asian cuisine.
“I think it’s a meaningful event, because it’s important to promote these values in [Asia] and to promote this original cuisine — to let people know wine can go well with lots of different cuisines. It might not be as strong an association as French wine paired with French food, but it’s becoming more and more popular. People are now more open-minded, they see it’s not weird to pair Asian food with French wine, I can see people accept and appreciate it more. This event is a good opportunity to keep promoting this concept.”
Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn from Le Du, Bangkok.
1. He might have trained and worked in the most prestigious restaurants of NYC, but his heart is Thai.
“Thailand is my home, it’s where I was born. I always felt it made more sense to open my restaurant here, where my passion for food began.” He recalls what things were like back in the early days. “Back when I started to cook, none of the young Thai cooks wanted to cook Thai food because they thought it was ‘too boring’ — they wanted to cook Italian or French food. I thought if everyone started to cook foreign styles of cuisine, then we would lose our culinary identity and I felt it would be a real shame.”
“Thai food is our heritage, our tradition. I am Thai, and I want to do something that matters to our country and our traditions. I want to be a part of our history.” Staying in Thailand also makes it easier for chef Ton to achieve his ideals. “It’s much more effective to purchase 100% local and organic products if you’re closer to the producers — this is how I am at my full potential to showcase Thai terroir and Thai food.”
2. His establishment, Le Du, serves a lot more than pretty plates — it serves a philosophy.
“Through my cuisine, I humbly try to be part of a healthier movement, and make people realise how bad the food they eat can be. By working with producers that are respectful of the environment, fishermen that use lines instead of huge trawlers, we ensure our customers a healthy experience at our restaurants and ensure our producers a good life by paying them with dignity.”
Le Du interiors.
The name Le Du comes from a Thai word for seasons. “Seasonality is essential to us, we work jointly with small producers, small fishermen, farmers, and we adjust our menu roughly every three months depending on the availability of each product.”
To chef Ton, Thai cuisine is much like fine wine. “In almost every dish you can find several taste elements such as sweet, bitter, sour, and spicy. In a way, it’s comparable to wine in that it is very complex, and like each great wine, can’t be found anywhere else and can’t be copied, due to the influence of the terroir. In Thai food, harmony is essential, each dish has to be well-balanced in terms of flavours in order to feel complete.”
3. To chef Ton, the ‘Asian Fine Gastronomy & Palmer’ is a dinner that will make a difference.
“Most of the time, wine dinners in Thailand take place in big hotels or French restaurants, and I think it is time to change that and to make those dinners more interesting. Sometimes people think that Thai food does not go well with wine, but I am very excited to show them it’s possible to pair top French wine with top Thai food.”
The dinner also brings to light greater issues faced by those in the gourmet scene. “I think it would be great for both Château Palmer and us chefs to showcase the refinement of Asian cuisine, to promote our values. Matching that with Château Palmer’s wine and values would be a strong message that we could send to the food industry. Promoting the use of locally-sourced products, the sustainability of our food, would contribute to educating people.”