It’s a man’s world out there in Bangkok’s top kitchens but tiny but tough Spanish chef Cristina Tejeda who worked for the Queen of England is keen to make her mark at Savelberg
As the recently appointed Head Chef at Michelin-starred Savelberg, Cristina Tejeda is one of a tiny band of female chefs running top-of-the line restaurants in Bangkok. Born in Venezuela to an Italian mother and Venezuelan father, Cristina moved to Barcelona, Spain, when she was 10 years old.For someone now aged just 33, Cristina has an amazing track record, having worked as Royal Sous Chef at Buckingham Palace in London, where she cooked for Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family for three years and even joined the royal entourage at their various country retreats like Sandringham, and also as Junior Sous Chef at the famous L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in London. Additionally, Cristina was Head Chef at Spoonik Restaurant in Barcelona, before moving to Thailand. Earlier, she was Chef de Partie at Pizarro Restaurant, London.
From a very early age, I learned about cooking at home with my family. Later I tried to study industrial design but I didn’t like it. So I did what I enjoyed.
Biggest influences on your career?
My first chef Isidre Soler at Tram tram a French-Catalan restaurant in Barcelona.
Best early kitchen experience?
My first two weeks working in temperatures over 40 degrees, as stagier in Torre de l’Indi, Michelin-star restaurant in Xerta.
Worst early kitchen experience?
Once, when I didn’t know very well how the vacuum machine worked, and I didn’t stop it in time before the green jelly went all over the place.
Sounds like something out of Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Kitchen Nightmares.
That’s pure TV. But sometimes in the kitchen things do get crazy.
What’s special about Spanish cuisine?
The sun, the Mediterranean and the products like vegetables in season. Spanish food is totally different when cooked in Spain.
Everybody knows paella, so what other Spanish dish would you recommend?
Pulpo a la gallega - octopus , paprika, and potato. It is a typical dish from Galicia.
Why are there so few lady chefs in Bangkok?
The kitchen became a man’s world, very masculine and women have always been discriminated against. Salaries are never the same as for men, so it’s not the easiest choice, I might be small and skinny, but I can be tough.
The best meal you’ve ever had?
The ones I cook with my family. It’s all about love.
What’s your cooking philosophy?
Love and respect for the product. And as healthy as possible.
How do you rate the food products here in Thailand?
I can’t complain. We are working with local suppliers and their products from places like Chiang Mai. Otherwise we import our products from Holland.
What’s your signature dish?
‘Encocado’ – coconut sauce, quail breast stuffed with mango, green mango salada, coriander oil and crispy venere rice. It’s a mix between sweet and salty together.
The complete Robuchon.
The first word in cooking – Mugaritz Most difficult ingredient to work with?
Shell fish. I’m allergic to it, even to touch. I like shell fish but I have to be careful or take a pill beforehand.
Your greatest achievement to date?
To be a head chef, as I am here at Savelberg. In the future it will be when I get my own restaurant.
Famous people you’ve cooked for?
Queen Elizabeth and her family while working at Buckingham Palace, the King of Spain, President of Columbia, and Arsenal and Liverpool football teams.
Utensils you can’t do without?
Sharp knife and tweezers.
Most influential chef?
Xavier Boyer at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon.
Music while you cook?
Rock – anything by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
Whatever you do, do it for a reason and with passion.
Favorite dish you cook for yourself?
Pasta, with vegetables and plenty of cheese.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
A graphic designer or photographer.
What’s next for you?
I’m happy to be here in Bangkok for now. My dream is my own restaurant in Madrid.
Savelberg. Oriental Residence Bangkok, 110 Wireless Road 10330. Tel. 02 252 8001