One of the most celebrated and acclaimed chefs in Thailand, Tammasak Chootong, commonly referred to as “Chef Noi”, has taken Phuket Island by storm. Chef Noi has pioneered a Euro-Thai fusion that utilises the finest and freshest locally-sourced ingredients and European cooking and presentation methods.
Educated in Europe, he worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe, on board the Queen Elizabeth II cruise liner, and as a senior chef for the JW Marriott and Banyan Tree resorts in Phuket. Since returning to his hometown, Chef Noi has established the acclaimed SUAY restaurants brand and the Positive Kitchen culinary school and catering company.
Chef Noi established the successful SUAY restaurants brand in 2010, fulfilling his lifelong dream to establish his own restaurant. The flagship SUAY restaurant is in Phuket Town and this is where Chef Noi puts his culinary ideas to the test. The restaurant combines fine dark leathers, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a lawn and stone statuettes, and a cosy wooden balcony for those hot Phuket evenings.
In October 2017, Chef Noi opened the second SUAY restaurant in his portfolio, SUAY Cherngtalay, a relaxed and stylish establishment with brown suede chairs, heavy wooden tables, tiled flooring, and an outdoor patio and bar overlooking a courtyard and private BBQ terrace for those more intimate occasions.
Chef Noi’s talents don’t stop at cooking for hungry diners, he has also established a catering, food consultancy, and cookery school in his own Permsap Villa near Cherngtalay. Not only do guests at Positive Kitchen learn how to cook the dishes that have both locals and tourists alike flocking to the two SUAY restaurants, groups can also organise grape tasting sessions, intimate home-cooked dining on the 12-seater dining terrace and relax in comfortable surroundings.
Food and Travel asked Chef Noi about his culinary inspirations, his Phuket roots, and found out what makes him tick.
“Chef Noi’s also has a cookery school in his own Permsap Villa near Cherngtalay”
Where do you find your inspiration for the menus at your SUAY restaurants?
I love Thai cuisine, especially the complex flavours and stimulating textures of our dishes. As a Thai, I personally enjoy local ingredients that make me feel a sense of home as I savour their tastes, and this has been my inspiration.
When I set out to design a menu or a particular dish for my SUAY Restaurants, I always keep in mind how best to stay true to basic and traditional components of a dish and showcase the “Thai-ness” of it, while enhancing flavours and incorporating lighter and more refined ingredients that appeal to a western palate.
Why did you choose to open your flagship restaurant in Phuket as opposed to any other city?
I spent time in Europe training in a Michelin-star restaurant and heading the kitchen on board an exclusive passenger cruise liner. But I always knew that I was going to return to my home and do what I love here.
I came to Phuket to work with leading luxury resorts on the island, and through that time I have come to love this paradise island that is not only beautiful but also rich in culinary history. Inspired by this, I decided to settle down here with my family and open my flagship Restaurant SUAY in Phuket.
Why do you think visitors to Phuket should choose to dine at SUAY Phuket Old Town?
When guests enter SUAY Phuket Old Town, they often feel like they are stepping into a cosy and welcoming home. We offer a sophisticated yet palate-friendly Thai cuisine, and the ambience of the restaurant lets you relax amidst the bustling town centre. In this corner of Phuket Old Town, SUAY is a part of the local experience and an extension of the culinary culture.
“Northern Thai cuisine is very special to me and I have always enjoyed the combination of sweet, sour, and savoury tastes that are characteristic of the region.”
How has your time training and working abroad influenced your cooking?
In addition to the skills of managing a large and meticulous kitchen during my time abroad, I came to appreciate advanced and simplified cooking techniques aimed to enhance or preserve tastes, textures, and the healthfulness of ingredients.
Many times, these essences can be diminished in Thai food through stir-frying and other methods. I tend to use modern cooking techniques to better preserve flavours and the quality of the ingredients to create a lighter and healthier dish.
I have seen that you have a number of signature dishes at your restaurants. Which is your personal favourite? And why?
Northern Thai cuisine is very special to me and I always enjoyed the combination of sweet, sour, and savoury tastes that are characteristic of that region. And as a chef and restaurant owner, it is very rare that I get to sit down and enjoy a complete meal as I navigate both the kitchen and the floor each evening.
So, my personal preference is the Thai Royal Leaf Wrap with Foie Gras and Tamarind Sauce because this bite-sized savoury dish is not only flavourful with the herbs, roasted coconut flakes, and Wild Betel leaf, but also very easy to eat on the go.
“I always stay true to the traditional components of a dish and showcase its “Thai-ness”, while enhancing flavours with lighter and more refined ingredients.”
Why did you decide to open up your home to both professionals and amateurs for cooking classes through Positive Kitchen?
It all comes back to a sense of home to me. As a chef, I enjoy cooking food for people, no matter where. And when people can appreciate not just the food but the creativity, skills and effort that go into a meal, then I am excited to share what I know with them.
I have always felt that my home at Positive Kitchen is a place that is inviting and very much conducive to culinary entertainment. So, we worked hard to create a welcoming kitchen studio that inspires creativity and joy for cuisines.
It is a wonderful place for hosting small group cooking classes, private dinners where I serve up a special meal in a friendly setting, or even intimate product launches and dinner parties
How do you source the ingredients for your dishes? Are they local?
The first part of my day is always to go to the local markets to select ingredients for the day. I prefer to see and select fresh produce myself, so I can be assured of the quality of the ingredients, keep on top of seasonal and local selections, be inspired by the variety available, and connect with local vendors. Although we rely on importing some key ingredients for signature dishes, as much as possible I try to source locally.
Chef Noi is inspiring a new generation of Thai chefs through his appearance on Iron Chef Thailand, and his many cooking demonstrations and shows on Thai television. www.suayrestaurant.com
Words: Joe Worthington