Chef in focus
Mr Vincenzo Gatti
Chef Vincenzo, who is from Puglia, Italy, brings with him 20 years of culinary experience gained across many countries, with different positions in many kitchens of five-star hotels. He began his culinary career in Italy, after which he worked in various cities across Europe, including Amsterdam and Cologne. Within a year of moving to Dubai, his team and the Certo Restaurant were awarded ´Best Italian Restaurant in Dubai´. Chef Vincenzo is no stranger to the Hyatt family, having previously worked at Park Hyatt Guangzhou, China. Prior to joining Hyatt Regency Hua Hin, he was the Executive Sous Chef at Grand Hyatt Seoul, South Korea.
Contact: 032 521 234, email: email@example.com or visit website www.hyattregencyhuahin.com
Starting with a single pig ten years ago, selling his products in local farmers’ markets and to friends, Joe Sloane has grown his food business into one of Thailand’s leading and most recognizable suppliers of artisanal meat products.
The line-up includes sausages, bacon, hams, pies, burgers and a range of aged goods like salamis and chorizo. Today, ‘Sloane’s’ gets through four tons of meat a week, all from “high welfare” sources dotted around the country which UK-born Joe visits on a regular basis.
Most of his beef, for example, is from farms in Korat, while the pigs are sourced from a family cooperative in Ratchburi, and chickens from Khao Yai. Other suppliers are based in Sisaket, Chantaburi and Chiang Rai. All supplies are processed by 40-strong staff in the company’s Bangkok factory.
In addition to supermarkets popular with Thailand’s expat community, Joe supplies a number of leading hotels such as Hyatt, Marriott, St Regis, Kempinski, Anantara, Sheraton and the Minor Group as well as outlets like Starbucks.
In fact, it was Starbucks that helped to give his business a major boost when it added Sloane’s Cumberland sausages with Gouda cheese and egg on its menu as a breakfast special. The product was a surprise hit and almost overnight his Cumberlands went main stream.
Sloane’s goods are also available in restaurants in Luang Prabang, Laos, while plans to export to Singapore were shelved because the island republic only allow heat-treated pork products. Here in Thailand, some restaurants now make a point of highlighting the ‘Joe Sloane’s’ products as a sign of superior quality menu items.
To make his recently introduced range of pies, which include steak and kidney, steak and stout, mince and onion, chicken and ham, chicken and asparagus, traditional pork, cranberry and gala, Joe uses a traditional pie making machine from John Hunt of Bolton, a huge 80kg cast-iron contraption, some 60 years old, which he brought into Thailand in sections from the UK.
In terms of price, Joe reckons his products are roughly 20% more than the competition – “typically 250 baht against 290 baht for Sloane’s and 600 baht against 500 baht for other products.”
Jerome Coldefy is typically French, a full-on city man from Paris, a great chef and art lover, with a passion for cooking who enjoys combining food and art. Now living in Bangkok, which he loves for the variety of food available here, Jerome caters for private dinners highlighted by his gourmet cuisine.
From an early age, he visited museums like the famous La Prada in Madrid, the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan of Art in New York, and the British Museum in London for inspiration and education. And he loved nothing more than spending time in the kitchen watching his grandmother and mother cooking. The kitchen was old fashioned; no gas or electricity ovens, only an AGA, he remembers.
The inside story of the FCCT Bangkok’s historic media hub – making and breaking the news for more than 60 years
One of the great institutions of this country, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) has a long and fascinating history filled with the exploits of legendary journalists and photographers who risked and even gave their lives to keep the world informed of events in Southeast Asia.
Now in its seventh decade, the club is a magnet for a much wider audience with members from all walks of life enjoying some of the hottest debates in town, presentations, book launches and congenial gatherings. It also continues to play an important role in the quest for freedom of speech and other media issues.
By Dominic Faulder
The informal origins of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) date from the mid-1950s, when a group of correspondents and media types gathered at Mizu’s Kitchen on Patpong Road.
Back then, airlines, trading companies, restaurants and other businesses dominated the area - a far cry from today’s garish and moth-eaten nightlife haunts. Mizu’s survived until very recently with its tablecloths stiffened by the sizzling juices of countless Sarika steaks, and is currently undergoing refurbishment.
The history of the FCCT is the sum of its members – a long list of characters who have played fascinating parts, large and small, in the reporting of Southeast Asia. The FCCT’s principal founder, Jorges Orgibet, rolled up in Thailand with the US Office of War Information at the end of World War II and set up the US Information Service (USIS) office. A journeyman journalist and public relations man who in 1953 served as the first bureau chief for the Associated Press (AP), Orgibet never left. He passed away in 1986 at the Bangkok Nursing Home.
Alex Wu, a Chinese-language editor with USIS, and Prasong Wittaya of United Press, who served several terms as the club’s president, also played key roles.
Alexander MacDonald, the station chief after the war of the US Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency, founded the Bangkok Post in 1946. However, he was chased out of Thailand by 1955 before the FCCT really got going.
Who can join the FCCT and what are the fees?
Anyone can join. About a fifth of the membership are correspondents and journalists. The remainder range from diplomats to NGO workers, retirees to students. The fees vary according to category but the highest rate – for associate members – is still only baht 6,500 per annum.
How many members?
The FCCT has over 800 members.
What are the approximate membership demographics?
Ages range from 16 to 96 originating from most corners of Earth.
What are the main benefits of FCCT membership?
Free entrance to almost all events; 25% discount on F&B of good quality and reasonably priced; welcoming staff; great networking; informative and interesting events; outdoor terrace; access to books written by members; excellent working space on the fly.
What events does the FCCT host?
The FCCT usually hosts three events a week including Monday night documentaries, Wednesday night panel discussions, as well as various report and book launches. Topics range from politics (local, regional and international), to business, human and animal rights, and environmental issues.There are also more cultural evenings, sometimes built around a particular author or noteworthy individual. The FCCT also hosts lighter events: sake and craft beer tasting, plays, and tango nights, and has a children’s hour on Friday afternoons.
Over the course of over 60 years, the FCCT has welcomed countless famous speakers including world leaders, politicians, pundits, adventurers, writers, actors, directors, activists, sports people, and more – and many of their pictures can be viewed in the entrance area.
The FCCT has reciprocal arrangements with 29 clubs around the world including the FCC Hong Kong, FCC Tokyo, the National Press Club in Washington, and the Frontline Club in London.
Who’s in charge?
Good question. The FCCT is managed by an executive board elected each year with no member allowed to hold the same position for more than two consecutive years. The main board forms committees to manage various aspects of the club including programmes, publicity, finance, membership, and professional matters. Daily operations are managed by the general manager and his friendly staff.
Long-term expat from Sweden talks about competing in the Miss World competition, her encounter with an Arab who wanted more than just her beauty, an alcoholic former husband, and her exciting life in Bangkok.
Name: Agneta de Bekassy.
Born: In a relatively small town Södertälje, south of Stockholm. (5th of February 1955, a good wine year) Later, my parents moved to Stockholm where I went my first years to school.
Family: My father is an engineer and my mom a secretary. When I and my 4 ½ years younger brother were small, mom mostly stayed at home looking after us. She was born to be a mother. When I was seven, we moved to Gothenburg on the West coast.
Education: I went to a private school, Göteborg’s Högre Sam skola, not very big at that time and we called our female teachers “Aunt” and the males “Senior Master”. It was hard discipline and the principal (headmaster) greeted us every morning and always controlled us, checking that we were on time, properly dressed and had our books. He was a real gentleman and we all liked and respected him.
I studied lots of languages like Latin, ancient Greek and Russian. In Sweden our first foreign language is English, it’s obligatory. My headmaster was an archeologist and he got me interested in Ancient Civic Life, which I went on to study at the University of Gothenburg. I also picked languages, as I was a zero in math.
I went on to the University of Lund, south of Sweden, when my parents moved to Malmö. Here I took Art History. I have always been very interested in art and music.
University life and part-time model During my studies, I worked in my spare time as a model to earn pocket money. I often modeled at the fashion weeks in Copenhagen. It was a fun extra job and quite well paid.
I also went to Paris during six months where I worked for a Danish photographer, Gunnar Larsen. He was, at that time, publisher and owner of a beautiful fashion magazine Le Jardin de Mode.
During my stay in Paris, I was asked to represent Sweden at the Miss World Contest, which took place in London, we’re talking 1975. It was a big thing at that time. We were 68 young women participating. It was a time when London had a lot of turmoil and we girls were watched over very carefully. It was a nice and fun experience, but to be honest, I think there’s a lot of politics behind those contests.
Everybody wanted the Miss Germany to become Miss World that year, but instead a girl from an island – I think it was Aruba – who won. No one expected her to win, but she brought a great gift to be auctioned for charity, and in my mind that might have helped her becoming Miss World (my thoughts).
He was deeply disappointed. He also made it very clear that I should not worry about getting pregnant as he went for some kind of injection every third month that made him sterile. What a thing to say….. I was shocked and said that I had no intention to share his bed, but of course that was what he had had in mind.
He got very upset with me. There was no talking about a casting. For the next three days, I was locked in this bedroom, without my passport, no mobile (we didn’t have one in those days) and his landline was, of course, not working. Believe me, I was scared. His servants delivered food three times a day, but I never saw any other family member or him. I was desperate and thought about trafficking, and even saw myself being sold to an Arab somewhere in the desert.
The third day I was taken to a room with a film camera and told to act, wearing very few garments. It was easy to see there was no film in the camera. He was pretending to film, quite ridiculous. I still remember how embarrassed I felt. Back to the room and locked in again. The day after, the driver showed up. He made a sign telling me to be quiet and held up my passport in his hand. I hadn’t unpacked my suitcase, so I was ready to leave immediately. The apartment was empty and the kind old driver drove me back to the airport, just in time for my flight. I kissed him goodbye. I had never been so happy.
Arriving home I told my parents who, of course, were shocked by my story but the model agency chef just shook her head and said that I begged her to send me. Well, true I did. It was a strange and scary experience that ended happily.
Falling in love in Switzerland
When I was 20, I met a young man, a Swede who lived in Switzerland and fell in love. He was visiting Sweden to see friends and invited me to visit him in Lugano, in the south of Switzerland. My brother joined me on the journey to Switzerland but he was too young to have a driving license, so I did all the driving in my red Triumph, which I was very proud of. After a few weeks, my brother returned to Sweden and I stayed on. At the age of 23 we got married in Stockholm at Riddarhuset, the House of Nobility, on a beautiful winter afternoon.
It was an elegant and fun wedding, even if my husband to be and I had a huge fight the day before the ceremony. He was on his bachelor party with the King of Sweden and other male friends. The guys came to pick him up in an ambulance at our hotel and dressed him in a typical Salvation Army uniform. They gave him a money box and let him walk into restaurants asking for donations. I couldn’t believe it, he who was such a shy guy, agreeing to do something so foolish. Of course alcohol was involved.
I had gone out with my family for dinner, but happened to be in one of the restaurants he was visiting. I became completely hysterical and had some kind of allergic reaction and was taken to hospital. The doctor asked what had happened and, crying, I told him the story, and his only words were: You don’t want to marry this guy, do you?
I knew my “husband to be” wasn’t allowed to have alcohol as he had just been released from hospital where he had been treated for his drinking behavior. I told his friends to keep him away from alcohol, but they told me not to start nagging like an old wife before we were even married.
My husband was a close friend of the King since their time in boarding school. I wanted to cancel the wedding, but my future mother in law and the high society priest wouldn’t let me. You can’t cancel such a wedding with so many ‘high-so’ people in attendance, they said to me. I found out later that almost all the couples that priest had married were eventually divorced.
A couple of years followed with many exciting trips and festivities with the Royal couple and life was in a way a dance on roses, but it also had a lot of thorns. We lived in Lugano for almost a year, but it was a city for elderly people, not much to do, so later on we moved to Zurich, which I loved from the beginning. The city has flair, polite people, and beautiful shops and, as everybody knows, excellent food.
Back in Zurich after our honeymoon, I was asked by the fashion store where I had bought my wedding dress if I’d like to start modeling for them. It was a great idea, as I didn’t have to speak a lot of German. I could talk to them in English, but they mostly answered in Swiss German or sometimes in High German, so after a while, I learned to speak acceptable German. I never bothered to learn to speak Swiss German, but I understand it well. In my opinion, it’s not a very nice language, not at all feminine. Today I’m fluent in German after more than 35 years in Zurich.
Zurich was a big fashion center at that time, with a lot of haute couture ateliers and eventually I worked for all of them. It was a time when models were treated as divas. On a day with four or five shows, normally held in an exclusive hotel, you’d start early morning at the hairdresser, followed by the make- up. You were served breakfast, lunch and dinners with mostly Champagne and wine between the shows. You also earned very well. So it was a great time which I’m very thankful for.
When I married in 1977, it was uncomplicated to become Swiss. I received my Swiss passport three weeks after we returned from the honeymoon which made it easy for me to work. That has changed today.
I was very happy in Zurich. I travelled quite a lot, worked in Germany, Italy, France, and Lichtenstein. Those were the days. Well, is there anything that stays perfect forever?
Divorce and a new husband: My husband and I got divorced after seven years, due to his drinking problem. It is harder than one thinks, to live next to someone who is addicted to alcohol. I was happy we did not have any children. I decided to stay in Zurich after our divorce; I was happy there and had a huge circle of friends and plenty of work.
After a year as a single, I met my second husband. He was also living and working in Switzerland. He is half Swedish and half Hungarian. When we met, he was working for the UNHCR in Geneva. We married in Zurich 1984 and the four first years as husband and wife, we lived apart, he in Geneva and I in Zurich.
It was okay to begin with, but after the four years of travelling between the two cities (mostly he had to come to Zurich, as I didn’t like Geneva that much) he applied for a job in a bank and moved to Zurich. Here we had a great life. We wanted kids, but even with lots of trying it didn’t work out.
For more than a decade, Bangkok reigned supreme as the Disco City. Nowhere intensity and exuberance, and sheer craziness. dressed the part and with unbridled vigor.
Never before had they open invitation to let their and party in such an unregulated environment. wavered under the mass many of these flashy temples and divas.
The frenzy even lured world’s most infamous the UK to set up a giant ill-fated disco in Bangkok.
Inspired by the success 1977 movie ‘Saturday Bangkok’s disco mania strength to strength, early 2000s – and then as quickly as it had first the victim of excess, meddling officials.
The authorities were worried about the effect discos were having on 'innocent' young Thais while the cops fumed when one of the biggest establishments refused to entertain them. The writing was on the wall.
Suddenly, it all became too much for disco operators, especially after a horrific fire at a Bangkok night club that killed 66 people and injured more than 220. New rules and regulations made it far more difficult to carry on.
Today, discos barely exist in Bangkok. Instead young partygoers head to clubs or bars. Interest in dancing like John Travolta has waned, it seems.
But for another generation, that era of strobe lights, disco mirror balls and fake smoke is a wonderful memory.
The Big Chilli has compiled a list of a few of Bangkok's legendary discos that in their day were the hottest tickets in town. Discos are dead -long live the discos!
Born in Mumbai, India, in 1980, Chef Bharath graduated from IHM Bangalore in 2003 and began his culinary at TajSATS Air Catering.
In 2005, he joined the Grosvenor House in Dubai as a Chef de Partie before being promoted to Sous Chef in their 1-Michelin star Indego restaurant. Thereafter he joined the Armani Hotel in 2009 as the hotel’s Sous Chef, and then in 2011, worked as the Chef de Cuisine at Le Meridien Hotel’s MAHEC Indian restaurant. Later, he joined the pre-opening team of St. Regis Hotel in Mauritius.
In 2013, Chef Bharath joined Lite Bite Foods as the Senior Executive Chef of the company’s fine-dining Punjab Grill restaurants, which at that time had 10 restaurants throughout India, and one restaurant in Singapore. In 2014 he returned to his hometown, where he joined Alila Diwa Goa resort as its Executive Sous Chef. A year later, Chef Bharath he rejoined to Lite Bite Foods to establish Punjab Grill in Bangkok.
Name: Christopher E. Stafford.
Nickname: ‘Loong Oo-an’ – Thai for Uncle Fatty. When I was at the Anantara Hua Hin 20 years ago, I weigh 12 kg more than today.
Born: Gothenburg, Sweden. Grew up in Africa - Zambia and Ethiopia – and then to Kuala Lumpur in the early 70s. That was the best time to be an expat in Malaysia. My Dad was head of World Health Organization in Southeast Asia.
Education: Boarding school in England. Diploma in French from Lausanne in Switzerland, a Bachelor of Business Administration in Hotel Management from the University of Hawaii, USA, and a Master in Marketing from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.
Present Position: Chief Operating Officer, 137 Pillars Hotels & Resorts.
Family: Swedish mother, Australian father, a US citizen, who fought for the United States in WW2 because the Americans paid better. I have a son, 31, in Sweden and a daughter, 30, who is about to get married in London. My wife of ten years is a Thai national.
Where do you live?
A wonderful condo in Soi Yen Akart.
How long in Thailand? 19 years.
Favorite restaurant: Rendez-Vous Au Lys.
Brexit or Remain: Against it but part of me for it. I’m thinking about the future, and what opportunities there will be for today’s grandchildren. I am concerned. Europe is struggling. But I also understand why UK voted for Brexit. The UK and the countries of Northern Europe should re-establish the European Free Trade Agreement.
What languages do you speak?
Swedish and all the Nordic languages, French, English and German. Worked in hotels in nine countries. Ananatra for a long time, 137 Pillars for seven years.
How old are you?
I have recently applied for my senior citizen privileges.
You spent most of your early life overseas, right?
Eleven tremendous years in Nairobi, Kenya, and 21 more wonderful years in NYC.
What were you doing in New York when you met Joy?
Managing restaurants and clubs.
Where did you guys marry?
In Queens, by the Justice of the Peace.
Why didn’t you stay in the US?
I wanted to try life in Thailand. I am Thai and wondered why I could not get the connection. So in 1996 we came to Thailand, but still do go back to the US every year because of family.
So you’ve been entertaining audiences at TawanDaeng since it opened.
Yes, I've been there since Day One in 1999. It's been a great journey. This September marks my 20th anniversary as well as TawanDaeng’s.
How many nights a week do you perform there?
Normally six nights excluding Sundays and less if I am filming.
Have you always been a good singer and who influenced you?
You’d have to ask the audience how good I am. But I can tell you, I am a lucky one to get to do what I love. I grew up listening to Elvis, Motown R&B and a lot of Country.
Do you sing in both English and Thai?
I can sing in both but, I am more comfortable singing in English.
What type of music do you normally sing?
A variety of classic Rock & Roll and soft rock. For example, CCR, Eagles, Beatles, Elvis and the like...
How did you get into acting?
I started in Nairobi in the early 70s on stage. Oliver Twist was my first play. A couple of years after returning to Thailand, my son, Lukas, got an HSBC TV commercial and I benefited from that; I got to play his father. Casting calls continued coming in after that.
Were you trained, or just a natural actor?
I have never had formal training, but as in life, every movie is an experience, an adventure, and a lesson.
What kind of roles are you usually given?
After 21 years, I feel I am typecast - Mafia, police, military types, but I am always hoping and ready for a role that will challenge me.
What are the best known movies you’ve appeared in?
NO Escape, Only God Forgives, The Lady, Twilight Over Burma, and Trade of Innocents.
What’s the best and worst thing about acting?
Personally, it's all a HIGH for me. I get to meet new people, make new friends, go to different places/countries, get to play different personas, and get paid to do what I love.
Of all the stars you’ve met, who are your favorites?
Pierce Brosnan, Dermott Mulroney, Dustin Nguyen, and few others.
Not in my crosshairs, but like Momma said, never refuse a good offer. I am just appreciative to be working.
What’s your next movie?
A Thai horror movie and an international film. I cannot elaborate further than that.
As a well-known actor and singer, you must be constantly asked to join a selfie or sign autographs. Does it bother you?
Not at all. I do get asked to take pictures often but, as I am not star-struck kind of a guy, I wish that people would feel the same way and simply approach me in a friendly manner.
Do you ever refuse fans’ requests?
To do what? As far as song requests, I try not to disappoint.
How much time do you spend at The Garage?
As much as possible. It's where my wife and I hang out.
What came first – singing, acting or restaurant owner?
The singing and acting have always been there. The Garage Burger & Grill came to be in 2002.
Which of these do you like doing the most?
Once again, I am blessed doing all that I love. As with my four children, I have no favorites.
Do you ever get time for a vacation?
Time is always there, but rarely coincides with film schedules.
Other than The Garage, what’s your favorite Bangkok restaurant and other hang-out places?
We frequent friends' establishments such as Wine Bibber Sangria or the Friese Greene Club where movie motivated people go. We do love to cook at home. In fact, my family has given me the nickname #halfnakedchef.
What’s next for you?
To continue doing what I do, to spend more time with family and my new granddaughter.