German-born Bastian Ballweg is the Executive Chef at Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa Naiyang Beach and has worked over six years in Thailand. His first work experience here was in a steak house after which he moved after 18 months to a small bistro and wine shop. Almost one year later he got the opportunity to work in a hotel at the Naka Island – a luxury collection resort & spa in Phuket. After almost three years there he took up residency as the Executive Chef at Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa at Naiyang Beach.
How did you decide you wanted to become a chef?
Actually, this was not my first decision; my first job choice was to be a vet. But at a young age, I visited my grandparents and they had a restaurant so I got very interested in the hospitality business and liked to have conversations with the guests as well as being in the kitchen and then I decided, OK, why not be a chef?
What’s the greatest inspiration in your cooking?
The inspiration in my cooking is actually on a daily basis, when I watch TV, when I walk around, when I go to the market, I sometimes have ideas in the night when I sleep… I have many ideas springing up. There is not a specific time for inspiration.
Where were you trained in cuisine?
I was trained in Germany. My first year of the three-year course was in a four-star hotel and then I moved to a restaurant. They didn’t have a Michelin star but the level of cooking was the same.
What’s your favourite food?
My favourite food is not easy to explain! Sometimes I’m very happy to have a nice sandwich and sometimes I like to have a steak. When it comes to a favourite dish it’s more about my emotions and feelings.
What are your favourite local ingredients to work with?
My favourite local ingredients are all about seafood; prawns, squid, seabass. It’s very nice to cook with local seafood here as it’s very fresh and it’s directly in front of us. When we talk about imported ingredients I like to cook with beef or pork.
What’s your favourite kitchen gadget? Why?
It’s a knife because good cuisine is all about a good knife. You can’t cook without a knife, you can’t cut without a knife. And fire, this is the most important gadget in the kitchen… you can’t cook without fire.
How do you adapt to the local environment?
There is actually no big difference between European and Thai cuisine or cooking in Thailand or cooking in Europe or Germany. It’s all about yourself or myself in this case, how I improved and how I talk with my team, this is more important. It’s not about the difference in cooking. Of course the culture is different but that’s a small barrier to handle.
Any advice to young chefs about how to become a successful chef?
First, you must like to cook and when you cook, do it with all your heart. This is all you need and don’t look at the time or overtime when you work longer than usual. To be a chef is a heartfelt work and there’s a long way to go to be a good chef and to be successful but at the end it’s a nice way in a satisfying job.
If you could cook for and dine with anyone, who would that be?
In my opinion, the most successful chef is Gordon Ramsay, I would like to cook for him and dine with him and I would like to hear his advice about how to be a better chef.
About the signature dish
Today, I would like to cook seafood risotto. It’s one of our signature dishes at Big Fish restaurant, a mixture between European and Asian/Thai food, and