Narain Kiattiyotcharoen, cooking instructor at The Oriental Thai Cooking School at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, describes his typical working day
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My day starts at 6.30am. As soon as I arrive at The Oriental Thai Cooking School, at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, I call the concierge to check if there are any new reservations. Once I know the total number of guests for the day, I can ensure that I have adequate ingredients prepared and provided for the practical classes. Today, I have eight participants: four in-house guests, two from a nearby hotel and two expat ladies who have signed up for six days of courses. Then I check that all the cooking stations are fully equipped.
At 8.45am, I call the skipper to make sure our shuttle boat is on its way to pick up guests from the neighbouring hotel along the river. By 9am, guests file into the classroom and they are served some welcome snacks. I learn from the registration cards that one of the guests has requested kosher meats; another has a peanut allergy; and one cannot stay for lunch and would like to have the food packed afterwards to take away. My assistants make rapid adjustments and substitutions to suit the guests’ preferences.
Before the class begins, I show everyone around our kitchen garden to introduce them to local herbs and vegetables. Back in the classroom, I demonstrate how to make pumpkin pudding. After tasting my cooking, the guests get hands-on experience, re-creating the dessert at their own workstations. Then they learn how to cook the appetiser – dumplings with crab meat filling. Although this dish is a little time-consuming, they all seem to enjoy pinching the dumplings into flower shapes.
After a 10-minute break, I show my students how to make spicy spare rib soup. As before, they cannot wait to cook it themselves! The most anticipated dish, Phad Thai (Thai stir-fried noodles), is the grand finale of today’s menu and everyone is excited to learn our secret recipes for the paste and sauce, as well as the techniques of stir-frying.
At noon, the guests and I have lunch together. It is rewarding to see how much they enjoy the food they have learned to cook. We chat during the meal and I am asked to recommend the best places to buy certain spices, or what could be a substitute for Chinese chives? After lunch we say our goodbyes.
In the afternoon, I fetch some ingredients from the dry storeroom, make sure that fresh produce is delivered and check the number of guests for the next few days. I order more ingredients and produce from suppliers. My day usually ends just after 4pm. I tell myself how thankful I am to have this job that I really enjoy, working with such a wonderful and highly efficient team. Right here, at The Oriental Thai Cooking School, I have opportunities to make new friends every day, with people from so many countries and from all walks of life. And, despite the many cultural differences we may have, we all have one thing in common: a passion for Thai food.