Mr. Smith Goes to Bangkok

El Bulli-Trained Chef Ian Kittichai Brings Nose-to-Tail Dining to Thailand

Ian Kittichai takes us into the heart of his farm-to-table restaurant, Smith, one of seven different establishments he runs across the world. Since it opened in Bangkok at the end of 2012, Smith has heralded a departure from the modern Thai cuisine of Kittichai’s flagship Issaya Siamese Club, offering up such feature dishes as pork belly glazed with the juice of unripened grapes, or lamb with pomegranate, seaweed jus, pickled mustard and kale. In Giulio di Sturco’s photos, we gain insight into the mechanics behind the operation: while a colleague delicately snips herbs from the restaurant garden, Executive Chef Peter Pitakwong keeps the pass under control, inspecting and subtly tweaking dishes as if he were applying the final flourishes to a sculpture or painting. Kittichai’s TV show Chef Mue Tong (meaning ‘The Golden Hand Chef’) may be shown in over 70 countries, but his formative food experiences were far more humble. His culinary career began as a boy, when he would wake at 3am to help his mother collect goods from Bangkok’s wet market. She would cook curry for her son to sell to hungry locals—“Hot curry coming,” he would cry, while pushing the trolley along the street. He learned his trade during culinary exchanges at some of the best and most progressive restaurants around the world: Hotel Georges V in Paris, The French Laundry in Napa Valley and, most notably, El Bulli in Spain. But despite his western-focused career path, Kittichai remains faithful to the techniques of Thai cooking. “You shouldn’t take shortcuts,” he says. “There is a reason the traditional methods and instructions are there. They work.”

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Conversations (2)

  • DenisePaglina
    The gardens are simplicity exemplified. do we duplicate them
  • Urban Gardens
    I love the garden alone, so beautiful and simple. I bet the cuisine is also simple but gorgeous.

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    Riding Shotgun with Roy Choi

    The Maverick Chef Takes NOWNESS on an Odyssey Around His Food Truck Empire

    Flamboyant Korean-American chef Roy Choi ruminates on his holistic ideals of feeding both belly and soul in filmmaker Alison Chernick’s philosophical portrait. Choi burst onto the LA culinary scene in 2009 with a fleet of Kogi food trucks, a pulsating twitter account, and a high visibility blog, Riding Shotgun, which showcases the cook’s inspirations and new recipes alongside personal musings. Fusing the flavors of Korean BBQ with Mexican street food in such creations as the kimchi quesadilla and short rib tacos, Choi delivers his epicurean inventions to an estimated 10,000 Angelenos every day, satiating more appetites than any other chef in America. Food & Wine magazine called him Best New Chef in 2010—the first for a food truck in the award’s 22-year history—and feted as the iconoclast who sparked LA’s mobile street food revolution, Choi has expanded his empire to restaurants, including Chego, A-frame and Sunny Spot. “His motivations seem purely to want to feed his friends—cashing in doesn't seem to be on his radar and you can taste that,” says Chernick, who spent a day riding around with Choi visiting his multiple outposts and discussing plant communication and being kind to chickens.

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    Francis Ford Coppola: Pater Familias

    The Legendary Director Shares Family Lore at His Palazzo Margherita Hideaway

    Coppola history comes to life in this candid portrait of Francis Ford by Alison Chernick, filmed at the Hollywood don's newest hotel, Palazzo Margherita, while he was vacationing with his aunt Almerinda and his 95-year-old uncle Anton. Tucked in the arch of Italy’s boot, the majestic boutique property is situated in the quiet hilltop town of Bernalda, or as the Coppolas call it, “Bernaldabella”, which has held mythic intrigue for the celebrated director since his grandfather Agostino left the region for New York in 1904. The auteur behind the The Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now and The Rainmaker, first made a pilgrimage to the Southern Italian spot at the age of 22, where he was welcomed by family members who were still residing there. He began to return regularly and, having already expanded his directorial vision to include a vineyard in the Napa Valley and several retreats in Central and South America, in 2005 he bought the virtually untouched 1892 Palazzo Margherita from a surviving descendant of the man who built it. Keeping the close-knit Coppola clan at the heart of the project, his cineaste children Sofia and Roman collaborated on personalized interiors for several of the building’s nine suites with French interior designer Jacques Grange, whose clients have included Yves Saint Laurent and Princess Caroline of Monaco. The Palazzo boasts several bars as well as a lush courtyard and garden, and the only swimming pool in Bernalda—built in time for Sofia’s wedding to Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars last August. The patriarch’s own headquarters features a Moorish ceiling design, honoring the heritage of his Tunisian-born Grandmother, Maria Zasa. Guests may find themselves sitting next to Francis himself at the shared dining table, savoring regional cuisine such as lamb prepared with chicory, tomatoes and cheese, and Lampascioni fritti (a local variety of baby onion, deeply fried), before retiring to the salon to curl up with a Coppola-curated library of Italian films.

    Visit our Facebook page to view behind-the-scenes images from this shoot, alongside a recipe for pasta e fagioli, straight from the Palazzo Margherita's kitchen.

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