By Agneta de Bekassy
Clément was born and raised in Cahors, Lot, southwestern France, an historic city with special significance to Danish people. This is where the late Prince Henri-Marie-Jean Andre de Laborde de Monpezat of Denmark’s castle Chateau de Caix and his vineyards are located.
The Danish Royal family spent their summer holidays at Cahors, and Queen Margrethe II celebrated many of her birthdays there. Prince Henrik (as the Danes call him) was proud of his wine and it is still served at most Danish banquets hosted by the Royal family.
Clément later moved to Toulouse to follow a vocational degree in culinary art, learning preparation, cooking, presentation and the serving of food. Like many of his colleagues, Clément started to cook at a young age. Indeed, he followed in the footsteps of his father, a chef.
“I grew up in the countryside and I loved to cook with my grandmother. My grandfather grows vegetables and we always use local grown products at home. I think I can say that I always have been related to food in one or another way.”
When I asked who influenced him in his choice of profession he answers: “Obviously first my grandmother and my dad. Later on, I was also influenced by the chefs from school like MOF Jean-Luc Danjou and Robert Bertolino, also by grand Michelin Chefs like Jean Cousseau, Michel Roux, Franck Putelat and Jean-Michel Lorain, to mention a few”.
Before Bangkok had the pleasure of welcoming Clément, he worked in Burgundy, France, at the 3 star Michelin restaurants of Le Relais Bernard Loiseau.
At this point, I asked him why he decided to come to Bangkok and open a restaurant here.
“I arrived first in Phuket in 2009 and stayed for a while, but decided to return to France to pursue my career in Michelin restaurants. In 2009, gastronomy in Thailand looked different from what it is today. I wanted to come back here and work for a Michelin star Chef.
It was then that Chef Jean -Michel Lorain offered me a job at his restaurant J’aime by Jean- Michel Lorain at U Sathorn and I immediately took the opportunity.”
Why open your own restaurant on Soi Yen Akat in the Sathorn area of Bangkok and not the busy Sukhumvit area?
“I’m a countryside man and I have never lived in a big city. Sathorn, in my opinion, and especially Soi Yenakart, is like a small city within the big city. It’s like a village in the middle of bustling Bangkok. I came here six years ago and never have had the wish to leave this area.”
What do you see as your specialties? “Talking about products, it would be my home products like foie gras and Black Winter Truffle (when it’s in season). I’m trained in classic French cuisine and to me sauces are generally the most important ingredients and components of the dishes. For me the sauces are the quintessence of the food.”
Clément admires many chefs and he admits that all of those he has worked for have influenced and inspired him – and have made me the Chef he is today, he says. “As for a chef, for whom I have never worked, I probably would say Chef Yannic Alléno, who has inspired me the most due to his research on and work with sauces.”
Chef Yannick Alléno is also French and runs the restaurants Pavillion Ledoyen and L’Abysse in Paris, and Le 1947 in Courcheval, a very popular ski resort. He has been awarded six Michelin stars in his career.
At Clément’s restaurant Workshop, food and wine meet art and music. Here customers can enjoy excellent food in a private space or within the delights of art decorated walls.
Craft, expertise, and innovation characterize the Workshop. “My restaurant can be seen as a laboratory where the staff’s creativity is at the forefront. It’s sincere dining, a real tribute to fine dining. Workshop is dedicated to making craft and art a meaningful part of everyday life.”
On July 14th 2020 Workshop officially opened its door and presented its first exhibition, a collection of black and white photographs by the Dutch photographer Albert Leeflang. For that evening Clément created a range of black and white food plates to accompany the photographs.
Workshop operates from Monday until Saturday from 11 am to 11 pm for lunch, a la carte, dinner and cocktails. The restaurant can host a seated dinner for 40 guests and 100 guests for a cocktail. It also has a cozy terrace.
Unfortunately, Workshop’s launch coincided with the first Covid lockdown, not the best time to open a restaurant.
“My partners and I came up with the name Workshop together. It’s a tribute to craftsmanship. It’s a combination of food and beverage, art in general such as photography, paintings and music. Our restaurant is a meeting point for artists both locals and internationals. Internally, this restaurant is the tip of the iceberg of our common project as we have many more projects to come, such as Workshop Greenhouse, which will focus on vertical farming. This place will soon open just a few meters away from the restaurant.
So what does Clément think about Thailand? After all, he’s been here nine years – three in Phuket and six in Bangkok. “Thailand has treated me very well during these years both personally and also professionally.
“I feel home here, and I appreciate the country and its people. I love the way of life here, sabai, sabai. The living standard is high and it has been interesting to live here. I think I have become a better person, at least a calmer one. It is quite difficult to become part of the community though; you will always be reminded that you are a farang both at work and in private. I wish that would change a bit.”
When Clément has visitors coming to town, he likes to take them to Baan Khanitha on Sathorn Road for genuine Thai food and also for Phuket cuisine; he likes Pray Raya as his favorite Thai restaurant. He also recommends Saawaan on Suan Plu for an up-scale Thai food experience. He enjoys taking friends for a stroll in ChinaTown and he encourages them to try the amazing street food. When it comes to French food, Le Cabanon is on the top of his list, especially when he’s feeling a bit homesick, he admits.
Clément loves Thai food, especially from northern Thailand. He has spent time there on a wild mushroom project and became a fan of their food while there. He is not very fond of very spicy food, he says.
“Future plans, in addition to Workshop Greenhouse mentioned earlier, is to open another Workshop restaurant closer to the CBD area. Because of the current Covid-19 restrictions, we are also working on a food delivery project, but we do hope that life in the very near future will go back to normal.”
If he could pick one person, anyone in the world to dine with, Clément says he would love to have his grandpa at the table, to cook for him and share a dinner.
“I miss my grandpa a lot and I know he would love it. Well, I would also like my entire family around me. Without them and their support I would not have become the chef I am today.”