The french based world leader in quality of life services and employee engagement company- Sodexo knows for sure the secret of building strong connect with employees and preparing employers to prepare for futuristic need of its manpower to keep them motivated to perform at their best. The recent barometer released by Sodexo Trends Shaping the Global Workplace in 2017 is an eye opener in many ways that forecasts rise in employees without borders phenomenon and insist on employers inculcating Wellness 3.0: Moving beyond thinking of workplace wellness programs as sources for “fixing” or preventing health problems, as they are now being viewed as potential catalysts for healthy living for employees, their families and the community at large.
Another initiative from Sodexo that stands out to reaffirm its leadership position and ability to think in line with the meeting the aspirations of meeting its corporate clients and its customers is its unique Global Chef Program that runs across the world. In fact, Sodexo effectively uses the Global Chef Program as a way to showcase its culinary talent from operations in 80 countries around the world while also bringing a unique dining experience to guests.
In 2017, as part of its Chef residency initiative– Sodexo got Chef Akkarat, Sodexo’s designated promotional chef for Thai cuisine to India from August 13-25, 2017. With an illustrious career spanning over 13 years of culinary experience under his belt, Singapore based Chef Akkarat has worked with a variety of hospitality groups in Thailand, before joining Sodexo in 2013. Originally from the northeast region of Thailand, Roi Et where the delicacy Thai Papaya Salad came from, PWi team caught up with Chef Akkarat for an e-interview to request to share his flair and authentic interpretation of Thai cuisine through the Global Chef Program, a service innovation and first-hand experience of international cuisine that Sodexo offers to its clients and consumers.
At fag end of his India trip, Chef Akkarat surely accomplished his task of spreading the magic of his culinary skills across the length and breadth of India, with his Thai specialties, signatures dishes that too at key client premises of Sodexo in India.
Here are selected excerpts from his take on the said experience in India as part of the Chef residency program:
PWi- Tell us, how your career as a chef unfolded?
Chef Akkarat- Passion is the only special ingredient required for cooking. And, I welcome this cooking gene in me which comes from my father – my source of inspiration! Having him around was a good guidance to my professional journey as a Chef. After completing my University course in Food Nutrition and Business, I have worked for established hotel chains in Thailand and Singapore. My corporate journey in the culinary world started with Sodexo in 2013.
PWi– Whats the difference between Cooking as Hobby v/s Cooking as Profession?
Chef Akkarat- I love cooking since I grew up watching my Father as a Chef. Since my profession happens to be my passion also, I love the mix of both.
PWi– How is life of Chef Akkarat , or a typical day in the kitchen.
Chef Akkarat-Cooking is an extremely satisfying profession. The happiness you share with people by playing with fire, getting creative with the menu and pleasing their taste buds is simply superb! As a Chef, my responsibility is to ensure that there is no monotony on plates. Though there are some daily tasks that you have to do to maintain the quality standards; the one thing I am very particular about is kitchen hygiene, sanitation and safety conditions. This is followed by my routine catch up and briefing for the day ahead with my team; preparing for the lunch services including review of the dishes, tasting, plating and food decor.
PWi– What are the hottest kitchen tools to operate?
Chef Akkarat- ‘Arms for a soldier as kitchen tools for the chef!’ For a chef, every tool has its own significance but, to name a few I will always have alongside me – a wok, Chinese ladle, sharp knife, peeler, thermometer, sanitized colour coded cutting boards, a clean towel and a stock pot.
PWi– What is your speciality? Why do you choose this dish over the others?
Chef Akkarat- Tom Yum Kung soup! It comes to me very naturally, simply because it is an amazing fusion of sour and spicy taste. Thai food, in general, not only provides a wonderful taste but also includes medicinal properties with herbs used as special cooking ingredients. Tom Yum Kung is one of the best examples. It consists of soup stock with herbs, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaf and a choice of meat and vegetables. In the Indian context – it has the perfect ‘Desi Tadka’.
PWi– In your opinion which Thai delicacy that every individual must try in their life-time? Why?
Chef Akkarat- Thai Green Curry Chicken because, it is what Thai stands for in terms of its taste, texture and the ingredients used namely coconut milk, kaffir line and fresh herbs. They are all quintessential to Thai cuisine to keep it authentic.
PWi– What is your view on the Globalisation of Thai cuisine? Do you see more and more Indians savouring Thai dishes?
Chef Akkarat- The reason for the popularity of the Thai cuisine is the unique blend of spices and herbs that bring out the five different tastes of food, i.e. sweetness, sourness, saltiness, spiciness/hotness, and umami or the savory taste. I see more and more Indians savouring Thai dishes as the taste base and the combination of spices and herbs is similar to the native preferences.
PWi– Do you also have the ravishing experience of preparing royal dishes for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej? Tell us a little about this experience?
Chef Akkarat- I had the good fortune of serving His Excellency, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, when I was in the University. I prepared Beef Massaman and stir-fried Kangkong along with the dessert, Pumpkin Custard. The feedback received keeps me highly motivated till date.
PWi– What is that one thing you still want to accomplish in your cooking profession? Your dream assignment?
Chef Akkarat-I always wanted to have a culinary institute of my own in Thailand, where I would teach the students for free. It’s something I am very keen on.
PWi– What is your word od advice for the budding culinary experts?
Chef Akkarat- My advice will be – “Do not stop learning; creativity & hardwork always pays!
PWi– Massaisman curry is one of the popular traditional dishes in Thai cuisine’ can you give us a brief about its history?
Chef Akkarat- While there are different versions of how Masamban curry came into Thai ‘Cuisinescape’, the two most popular ones date back to the 17th century. According to one, a Persian merchant in the 17th century, King Ayutthaya’s court had introduced this and hence the name Mussalman curry which later came to be known as Massaman curry. The other version states that the dish originated from Southern Thailand, where the influence of Malays and Indian culture was evident in the food habits.
Pwi– ‘Papaya Salad’ has its place in the unique dishes of Thai cuisine’. What is unique about that dish?
Chef Akkarat- Thai Papaya Salad is a spicy salad made from shredded unripe papaya. Well, there is a history why unripe papaya is used! The hot climate dries up the papaya much before it ripens and hence people found this a good option to use it while still raw. To make it more palatable, they added ingredients that were pounded like garlic, red chilli, papaya, palm sugar, anchovy and lime juice. With these basic ingredients in place, each Chef then adds his creativity to the dish! Originating from North East Thailand, the dish uniquely combines all the five tastes which is a Thai peculiarity.