Stefano Borra: my Bangkok

The chef from Torino tells us about his experience in Thailand, at restaurant Enoteca. With good results and a few regrets...

02-05-2017

Stefano Borra, who was already a starred chef at his VO in Torino of which he was also patron, tells us about his experience in Bangkok, which started on the 21st September 2016

Sawadee (that is to say “ciao”, in Thai): this is the word I’ve heard and spoken the most during my days in Bangkok. But how did I get there? On the other side of the world, my world... After reaching a great goal, that is to say opening a small restaurant in my hometown Torino, I thought it was time to make a rough change and put myself to the test once again in the kitchen. The dream was called VO, nine years of great personal satisfaction, awarded by the best guides and even with a star from Michelin after 5 years.

Everything was perfect, except (sadly) the numbers of the business. I believe that for a small entrepreneur it is now very difficult if not impossible to survive in Italy if you don’t have plenty of resources supporting you. A restaurant like VO has very high management costs: raw materials of the highest quality, staff and most of all taxes... All items you must include in the price of the dishes; so clients find them too high and in the end the tables are empty. People, these days, won’t give up on eating out, but they’re not likely to spend that amount of money. I understand: at the end of the month dining in a gourmet restaurant can have strong impact on the budget of a family of four.

Enoteca in Bangkok

Enoteca in Bangkok

So in the spring of 2016 this very interesting offer arrived: I was asked to take on the reins of the kitchen of one of the best Italian restaurants in Bangkok, Enoteca. After thinking it through, I accepted.

Now I direct a brigade of seven Thai guys, very talented and willing to work but obviously with a completely different culture from my own. They’re excellent doers, they copy every dish I teach them, perfectly. I must pay attention though, the first time, to explain my idea without making changes later. They can’t take pressure, stress, the service coup de foudre; I must manage everything with calm and serenity. To be honest, I’m not used to it. I always thought stress was a major part of the service when you have to prepare very complex dishes. However, I’ve realised my mind is more free now. I enjoy conveying my knowledge, the experience of all these years spent in the kitchen.

Stefano Borra

Stefano Borra

Bangkok is growing fast and as a consequence even gastronomy has acquired an important role in the past few years, with new restaurants capable of satisfying all sorts of palates. You have high quality restaurants offering Indian, Japanese. Australian and of course Italian cuisine. Even Thai cooking, which is in fact very simple, is undergoing a “gourmet evolution”, let’s put it this way.

On top of Gaggan, first in the Asia 50Best, other great chefs like Joel Robuchon have arrived. Some time ago the Michelin Guide, already covering Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, arrived here making things official.

As for the suppliers, you can find all sorts of local or imported products: Bangkok is full of markets, but they also have many gourmet shops like Villa Market and Gourmet Market, where you can buy products like wagyu beef, oysters, fresh fish and all sorts of fruits and vegetables: cherry tomatoes, date tomatoes and beefsteak tomatoes (this winter I even bought Jerusalem artichokes and chards!).

I was immediately fascinated by the aromas of Thai cuisine, made mostly of meat or fish soups in which they cook noodles. It’s dominated by strong flavours like garlic, ginger, lemon grass, chilli pepper and a large number of herbs (citronella, coriander, tarragon, shiso).

I tried to create some pairings with these aromas and our cuisine, but just out of curiosity and personal pleasure: indeed at Enoteca I serve typical Italian cuisine. I receive products from Italy twice a week: Fassona meat, tonda e gentile hazelnuts from Langje, pecorino Pdo, castelmagno, robiola di Roccaverano, burrata and of course wines, mostly Tuscan and Piedmontese.


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