Issaya Cooking Studio, Bangkok

Author: Lara Dunston
Photography: Terence Carter

Don't expect a spring roll class at this Thai celebrity's cooking school.

After viewing the Grand Palace, shopping at Chatuchak markets and dining at David Thompson's Nahm, a Thai cooking class ranks high on many travellers' Bangkok itineraries. Classes in five-star hotels and tourist restaurants usually work with Thai standards: som tum, green curry, and mango with sticky rice.

Thai celebrity chef Ian Kittichai has aimed his new Issaya Cooking Studio at those already familiar with Thai cooking. In a kitchen in the upmarket Central Embassy mall, recipes from Kittichai's Issaya Siamese Club, number 31 on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list, are taught using fairly advanced techniques: expect sous-vide, pastry-making and the occasional molecular trick.

Travellers are likely to find themselves pounding spices beside Kittichai and Bangkok residents, who otherwise wouldn't dream of taking a tourist cooking class. The chef's classes have proved popular with locals keen to learn the secrets of his lamb shank mussaman curry and smoky grilled chicken.

Much of Pongtawat "Ian" Chalermkittichai's childhood was spent with his mother at the market before school, then selling her curry rice from a cart after school. Kittichai trained at London's Waldorf Hotel, then moved to Sydney in the mid-1980s to help at his sister's Thai restaurant. Days off spent perusing cookbooks at the Chefs' Warehouse led to a chance encounter with Damien Pignolet and a job at Claude's.

Kittichai returned to Bangkok to run five-star hotel kitchens before heading to New York to open Kittichai, the city's first fine-dining Thai restaurant. Since returning to Bangkok in 2008, Kittichai has become a household name, with TV cooking shows, two cookbooks, Thailand's Iron Chef title and restaurants in New York, Mumbai, Barcelona and Bangkok. Students at his cooking classes are likely to spy fans sneaking in for autographs and selfies. Three-hour classes cost from $70; molecular class $159; children's class $63; mixology class $28. Check dates for free classes, visiting chefs and dinners at the chef's table with Kittichai, $170.

Issaya Cooking Studio, Lower Ground, Central Embassy, BTS Skytrain Ploenchit







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