Serious Australian, British and European chefs have presented high-end Thai food in restaurants from Sydney to London to Copenhagen. Chefs of all nationalities have long been seduced by the delicate balancing art of Thai food – the interaction between the salty and sour, sweet and spicy veins of flavour that inspire Thai food devotees. Rarely, though, do these so-called faring (foreign) chefs venture onto Thai soil to present Thai food to discerning local customers.Dylan Jones, a 28-year-old chef from Canberra, is in the vanguard. He and his Thai partner (in life as well as in business) Duangporn Songvisava, 29, better known as Bo, opened Bo.lan off Sukhamvit Road last year, and it is popular with both Thais and foreign visitors.
Jones worked at the famed Thai restaurant Nahm in London for five years, under Australian chefs Matthew Albert and David Thompson, the restaurant’s founder. He met Bo there, and the couple returned to Bangkok to open their own establishment. Jones, who is a Thai speaker, is enamoured with the cuisine – the complexity and delicacy of it, and the often surprising taste combinations. “From a cook’s point of view, it’s so different and diverse, it’s never boring,” he says.
Born in Bangkok, Bo earned a masters’ degree in gastronomy from the University of Adelaide (her thesis was on Thai food). Bo.Lan’s menu includes food from all over Thailand, including fiery dishes form the northern province of Isaan, and the spices are not altered for sensitive western palates. “It’s about balance, and about contrasting flavours and textures as well,” Jones says.
Jones is soon to be joined in Bangkok by Thompson, who launched successful Thai restaurants in Sydney before moving to London in 2001 and opening Nahm at The Halkin hotel. He is scheduled to open another Nahm in the Metropolitan hotel in Bangkok, possibly by mid-year. The London Nahm as the first Thai restaurant in Europe to earn a Michelin star and it has regularly won praise from British restaurant critics.
Also a Thai speaker, Thompson has rotten extensively on Thai cuisine, mot recently in the book ‘Thai Street Food’. His professional life has been devoted to the study of Thai food. “It’s one of the world’s great cuisines,” he says. “I’m besotted with it; I’ve spend 25 years mucking around with it.”
Inspired first by Thompson and the quality of Thai food prepared in the Nahm kitchen in London, Jones is a stickler for quality and authenticity.
“Thai food is labour-intensive, and it can be very difficult,” he says. “Some of the Thai cookbook recipes use processed foods, to make it easy — but it’s not good for authenticity.”