What Matters To Me: Pichaya Utharntharm, Chef
In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.
Pichaya Utharnthum, better known as Pam, has worked in the kitchens of leading establishments such as Jean-Georges in New York and Le Beaulieu in Bangkok. Aged 21, she became the youngest chef to win the Asia Youth Hope Cooking Competition by Les Disciples d’Escoffier. A judge on TV show Top Chef, she is also the owner of one of Thailand’s most sought-after chef’s tables. Here, Pam describes her work and passions in her own words.
My appreciation for Thai-Chinese cuisine stems from the fact that I was born into the fourth generation of a family of traditional Chinese herbal medicine producers. The countless times my mother and I spent running around the kitchen trying out different recipes is what helped to cultivate my culinary savoir faire. I finished my apprenticeship in the United States, and this mix between American and Thai-Chinese cuisine continues to shape my cooking philosophy.
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My appreciation for Thai-Chinese cuisine stems from the fact that I was born into the fourth generation of a family of traditional Chinese herbal medicine producers
The advantages of the chef’s table concept are that there’s no fixed cost and it gives clients a new kind of experience in which the food can be customised to their preferences. It is also more intimate and creates little to no waste. That is very important to me. Waste is immoral when you consider the burdens we place on nature in growing such vast quantities of food—perverse, even, because despite such profusion, so many millions of people around the world go hungry every day. With a chef’s table I know exactly how many people I have to serve, so I don’t need to over-stock any ingredients. If there are any leftovers, they become staff meals or family meals.
What makes me happy is sharing my food with others. I believe that dining can happen on a spiritual level. My favourite thing about being a chef is being able to put a big part of who I am in a dish. I’m always trying to be innovative.
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I’d say biggest challenge as a female chef is overturning the notion that being a female chef is a big challenge. It’s hard being a chef, period. My team is composed entirely of women and we are like a small family. The ultimate challenge is how to become the best version of yourself and find your strong points and style of cooking. My advice to young, aspiring chefs is to maintain their passion and never stop learning and growing. Even now, I am working continually to improve myself and be better at what I do.
See honourees from the Food & Beverage category of the Gen.T List 2019.